CDA: Franco Zefferelli
Ah, Zefferelli! The stagecraft, the wonder, the opulence! Here's the tomb scene from his crossover hit *Romeo and Juliet.* It thrilled people at the time, but I imagine it would seem rather gooey today:
And three opera clips and an interview, if you'll indulge me. First, "Donde lieta usci" from his production of *Boheme* that is still getting butts in the seats at the Met after first taking the stage in 1981. I hope they never replace it, it's magical. Teresa Stratas is so amazing in this clip. That moment at the very end where they shake hands, it destroys me.
Next, Callas in his production of *Tosca* at Covent Garden. Zefferelli explained in an interview how he staged the moment before the murder. Let me set up the story: Tosca is an opera singer, her boyfriend, Cavaradossi, is a painter and political dissident. He's been captured by Scarpia, the chief of police in Rome. Scarpia brings Tosca up to his private quarters. He tells her he'll let Cavaradossi go if she has sex with him, and she says no. He makes her listen while Cavaradossi is being tortured and she decides yes.
In a typical staging up to that point, the interlude before the murder usually consisted of Scarpia chasing Tosca around the room, ending with her stabbing him. In the Zefferelli staging, he had Tosca go over to the table where supper had been laid out - - the took a glass of water and drank it, to steel her nerve. Then she looked down at the table and saw the knife and got the idea to kill Scarpia. Zefferelli said that having her keep her eyes on the knife and slowly put the glass on the table, it was like a cinematic close-up.
Here's a delightful interview with Zefferelli talking about *Tosca.*
Here's a cute story from the NY Times obit about how he got his name:
"By one oft-told account Mr. Zeffirelli was named by his mother. In those days in Italy children of purportedly 'unknown' fathers were assigned surnames starting with a different letter each year. He was born in the year of Z. His mother chose Zeffiretti, drawing on a word, meaning little breezes, heard in an aria in Mozart’s opera *Così Fan Tutte.* A transcription error, however, rendered it Zeffirelli."
I get a sudden surge of power correcting the NY Times - - "Zeffiretti lusinghieri" is from a Mozart opera, but it's from *Idomeneo,* not *Cosi Fan Tutte.* Here's Ileana Cotrubas singing the aria (in the Met production directed by Jean Pierre Ponnelle, not putting as many butts in the seats as *Boheme,* but still in rotation since 1982).