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Franco Zeffirelli

Franco Zeffirelli

By Hosts: Huw Lemmey & Ben Miller

A very special opera queen episode profiling an opera queen gone wrong: the Italian opera and film director (of 1968's famous Romeo and Juliet) who fought fascists as a partisan in the hills over Florence, mingled with Visconti and Cocteau and Marais and Chanel, and directed Callas in many of her mid-career triumphs before beginning to harden his style from lush realism to a celebration of set decoration above all. Zeffirelli, born at a time when the last composers whose works still fill the grand opera repertory were dying, faced, like all practitioners of the operatic arts in the 20th century, a choice between making living theatre or dead, ten-ton museum pieces. He chose the museum-piece approach and in so doing did tremendous artistic damage.



See Callas in Tosca in 1964 here.

See Leontyne Price's costumes for Antony and Cleopatra here and  here.

See Zeffirelli's MET Opera Turandot set here.

See Waltraud Meier sing the Liebestod here.


Duane Byrge, “Franco Zeffirelli, Oscar-Nominated Director for ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ Dies at 96,” The Hollywood Reporter (blog), June 15, 2019,

Rachel Donadio, “Maestro Still Runs the Show, Grandly,” The New York Times, August 18, 2009, sec. Arts,

Roger Ebert, “Romeo and Juliet Movie Review (1968) | Roger Ebert,” accessed January 31, 2022,

Johanna Fiedler, Molto Agitato: The Mayhem behind the Music at the Metropolitan Opera (New York: Anchor Books, 2003)

 Jonathan Kandell, “Franco Zeffirelli, Italian Director With Taste for Excess, Dies at 96,” The New York Times, June 15, 2019, sec. Arts,

Rebecca Keegan, “The Dark Side of Franco Zeffirelli: Abuse Accusers Speak Out Upon the Famed Director’s Death,” The Hollywood Reporter (blog), June 18, 2019,

Wayne Koestenbaum, The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire (London: Da Capo Press, 2001)

Barbara McMahon, “Zeffirelli Tells All about Priest’s Sexual Assault,” The Guardian, November 21, 2006, sec. World news,

 Peter Murphy, “Bruce Robinson Interview,” The New Review, accessed January 31, 2022,

John J. O’Connor, “TV Review; Zeffirelli’s Lavish ‘Turandot’ at the Met Opera,” The New York Times, January 27, 1988, sec. Arts,

Neda Ulaby, “Franco Zeffirelli, Creator Of Lavish Productions On Screen And Stage, Dies At 96,” NPR, June 15, 2019, sec. Obituaries,

Daniel J. Wakin, “For Opening Night at the Metropolitan, a New Sound: Booing,” The New York Times, September 22, 2009, sec. Arts,

Franco Zeffirelli, Zeffirelli: The Autobiography of Franco Zeffirelli, 1st American ed (New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1986)

“Opera: ‘Falstaff’ Staged by Zeffirelli; New Production of the Met Is Magnificent; Bernstein Conducts —Colzani in Title Role,” The New York Times, March 7, 1964, sec. Archives,

Our intro music is Arpeggia Colorix by Yann Terrien, downloaded from WFMU's Free Music Archive and distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Our outro music is by DJ Michaeloswell Graphicsdesigner.


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