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Franco Zeffirelli, Oscar-nominated Italian director, dies aged 96

Internationally, he is best known for having directed the 1968 film version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Italy Zeffirelli Obit Zeffirelli, seen in New York, in this 1974 file photo. Source: AP/PA Images

ITALIAN DIRECTOR FRANCO Zeffirelli, famed for operas, films and television, has died in Rome at the age of 96.

Zeffirelli’s son Luciano said his father died at home at noon on Saturday. “He had suffered for a while, but he left in a peaceful way,” he said.

A director, screenwriter, and producer, Zeffirelli has about 20 feature films to his name.

Internationally, he is best known for having directed the 1968 film version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.

He also borrowed from Shakespeare for adaptations of Hamlet, in 1992 with Mel Gibson and Glenn Close, and The Taming of the Shrew in 1967 with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

Franco Zeffirelli death Zeffirelli with (left to right) Lily Tomlin, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith and Cher, the stars of his film, 'Tea With Mussolini', at the Royal Premiere in London, 1999. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Italy Zeffirelli Obit Zeffirelli pictured with Elizabeth Taylor, 1987 Source: AP/PA Images

Franco Zeffirelli death Sir Lew Grade (right) with actor Robert Powell (centre) and Franco Zeffirelli in London. 1975 Source: PA Wire/PA Images

While Zeffirelli was most popularly known for his films, his name was also inextricably linked to the theatre and opera.

He produced classics for the world’s most famous opera houses, from Milan’s venerable La Scala to the Metropolitan in New York, and plays for London and Italian stages.

Born in Florence on 12 February 1923, Zeffirelli rose to be one of Italy’s most prolific directors, working with such opera greats as Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and his beloved Maria Callas, as well Hollywood stars including Elizabeth Taylor, Mel Gibson, Cher and Judi Dench.

He was one of the few Italian directors close to the Vatican, and the church turned to Zeffirelli’s for live telecasts of the 1978 papal installation and the 1983 Holy Year opening ceremonies in St Peter’s Basilica. 

“I never wanted this day to come. Franco Zeffirelli departed this morning. One of the greatest men in the world of culture. We join in the grief of his loved ones. Goodbye, dear Master, Florence will never forget you,” tweeted Dario Nardella, the mayor of Florence.

With reporting from AFP 

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