Zeffirelli hits 95

Zeffirelli hits 95


norman lebrecht

February 12, 2018

Happy birthday greetings to the inexhaustible opera and film director, resting at his palazzo outside Rome.

We spent an enchanting afternoon together there a few years back, with Franco adding little bits of embroidery to long-familiar memories.

He claimed as a teenage kid to have seen the bodies of Mussolini and Clara Petacci hanging from lampposts in Milan, and then to have climbed atop the mound of rubble that was all that remained of the stage at La Scala.



  • pooroperaman says:

    Wasn’t Zeffirelli MeToo’d recently? If so, shouldn’t he be whitewashed from history (and deprived of birthday greetings) like all the rest?

    • Lorenz Miedema says:

      The sudden emergence of the metoo wave can be construed as a project to make women hate men and thus destroy the heterosexual relationship. Why? The latter is one of the last natural phenomena that can exist largely without the interference of government, organized religion and the products of banks and global corporations–the forces that are destroying freedom in our society today.

      • Hilary says:

        Your take on this is very arguable!
        In the case of FZ, the charges (refuted by Zeffirelli’s son) were of a homosexual nature in any case.

      • Sue says:

        In principle, I agree with what you’ve said. We live in dangerous times.

      • Antonia says:

        I don’t believe this is at all true. I “Me too’d” on social media, but I still think many men are wonderful and sometimes even amazing and magical, incredible, caring, and sweet.

        Please give women credit for seeing life with nuance and complexity. Just because we may have been mistreated by one or even several men doesn’t mean we should think most men are like this. It may be possible that most powerful men are, because power does corrupt. But even this, I don’t know the extent of it among powerful men. I know there are nice yet powerful men (or formerly powerful) out there such as Jimmy Carter, Billy Graham, Mister Rogers (deceased but still a very nice man when alive), Hugh Jackman, Denzel Washington, and others who’ve achieved celebrity status yet been wonderful, kind, respectful people. So, power doesn’t corrupt everybody who acquires it.

        There’s no need to create a battle between the sexes because of the poor actions of some men. Women do need to tell our stories and let the world know what goes on. And we need you desperately to be our allies in ridding the world of this behavior to whatever extent possible. This is too big to do by ourselves. Please don’t line up against us? It would be just amazing if you could link arms with us and move together with us into a better future. Most of us still highly value men, and very much want you in our lives and hearts. You’re an integral part of what makes life beautiful! (When it’s working well!) Tyvm for sharing your thoughts so that I could reply, and I hope your cynicism may be softened about this somehow, in time. Peace to you.

        • Yes Addison says:

          A great comment, Antonia.

          Also, I’ve seen enough of Sue’s remarks here to get a sense of where she is on the spectrum politically and culturally, but when I read “These are dangerous times,” I couldn’t help wondering, “In comparison to which times?” The times when sexual assault and harassment were business as usual, and targets of it kept quiet and endured it just to be able to keep working at all? THOSE times felt like the dangerous ones to people who had to work with predators, and they had no reason to believe things would ever change.

          As for the subject of this post, yes, Mr. Zeffirelli’s orientation is no secret. The actor Johnathon Schaech, the actor-turned-director Bruce Robinson, and one American star with a higher profile than either of them have all claimed (at different times, decades apart) that they were the target of unwanted advances or inappropriate physical contact from FZ. However, he is 95 and, as one of his adopted sons has noted, not in a position to respond now. I can’t claim to be a fan of his films or his later work in opera, but he was a significant mid-20th-century transitional figure in the evolution of opera direction, whatever his conduct.

          • Antonia says:

            Not only that, but think of the “droit du seigneur” which was entirely legal in France for probably centuries! It has always been this way for women. Perhaps for men, as well, with gay predators. And, there are women harrassers of men. Lorenzio was engaging in super-reductionism to support his idea that there is a hidden, evil, divisive agenda at play in the “Me, too” movement, but “Me, too” happens to men, as well, at the hands of both men and women.

            But, men and women aren’t targeted by all men – this is the vital distinction for all of us to recognize, and to men to recognize that women do recognize. (How’s that for a tough-to-follow clause?) Predatorial behavior could affect any one of us at any time, by both men and women. It’s really a human issue rather than a women’s issue, in my mind. It seems as though, in fact, most of the predatorial behavior taking place here in the schools of NJ is on the part of female teachers. (Maybe because so many of them are female.)

      • Raouf Zaidan says:

        Not at all ! NO ONE should be exposed to harassment from someone who has power over them , it is disgusting , illegal , immoral behavior that is not acceptable under ANY circumstances . Mozart did not compose his magnificent opera “Le nozze di Figaro” on the marvelous play of Beaumarchais , and Da Ponte’s super magnificent libretto based on it , so that some idiot in the 21st century comes and defends the indefensible . Droit de Seigneur is gone , or should be banished forever , from human history . I should think that one so lofty as Zeffirelli hardly needs reminding of this . He does not get my happy birthday wishes .

  • Olassus says:

    He may of course live to see the next Mussolini — Salvini.


  • Sue says:

    The picture of FZ – a once stunningly handsome man – is a sobering reminder that it’s better to have died long before you get to your 90s. As my later father said, “nobody wants to live to 90…unless he/she is 89!”.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Not necessarily. Take Blomstedt.
      Take the great soprano Lisa della Casa: I think that even at 90 she exuded inner beauty.
      Now, you might make the case that she was no ordinary human being: first class musicianship and voice, and a really beautiful woman.

    • Cyril Blair says:

      Seriously? Ugh.

    • Raouf Zaidan says:

      Besides physical beauty there is inner beauty and excellence that can be overpoweringly wonderful . Your assessment is ageist , don’t you think ? I nursed my mother to her 100th year and can attest that she was beautiful to the end , her inner beauty growing as her physical beauty faded . Beauty is not just a matter of skin , hair , eyes , limbs and body . You can be beautiful on the outside . Lets find beauty within . That is what Zeffirelli is lacking here .

  • Novagerio says:

    Yeah, how did the “allegations” go?…Or are some people selectively untouchable?…