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Franco Zeffirelli

Franco Zeffirelli

Broadcast

First broadcast: Sun 18 May 2003

Director - film, opera and theatre

Sue Lawley's castaway this week is the director Franco Zeffirelli. He was born the illegitimate son of a philandering businessman and a successful fashion designer, both of whom were married to other people. Unable to give him his father's or her own name, his mother plucked a word out of a Mozart opera - 'Zefferetti', meaning 'little breeze' - and gave it to her son. Somewhere along the line a slip of a pen transformed it into Zeffirelli, and Franco has gone by it for 80 years. He was only six when his mother died of tuberculosis. His father was reluctant to take care of Franco but was shamed into palming him off onto an aunt, and later his English secretary Mary O'Neill. Mary belonged to a society of English ex-pats in Florence and young Franco grew up under their extraordinary influence. His experiences were eventually fictionalised into his 1999 film Tea With Mussolini, starring Joan Plowright, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Cher.

In the war he fought as a partisan and twice faced a firing squad before he met up with the 1st Scots Guards and became their interpreter. As well as using his linguistic talents, the Scots Guards gave him an early opportunity for theatrical creativity, and he made an open-air auditorium from 30 army trucks and some camouflage netting. After the war he studied art and architecture and was drawn into the worlds of theatre and film, working as assistant to the Marxist director Luchino Visconti initially but soon designing and directing his own films, plays and operas. His filmography runs to some 20 movies from the ground-breaking, and at the time shocking Romeo and Juliet of 1968 to the brooding Jane Eyre of 1996 via his stunning seven-hour Jesus of Nazareth for television in 1977, not to mention his 1990 Hamlet with Mel Gibson in the leading role. On stage he is famed for his opulent productions at the opera and he has worked with the titans of the art including Maria Callas, Placido Domingo, Joan Sutherland and Herbert Von Karajan.

He is in London to direct Pirandello's Absolutely! (Perhaps) starring Joan Plowright and Oliver Ford Davies, which opened at Wyndham's Theatre on 7th May.

[Taken from the original programme material for this archive edition of Desert Island Discs]

Choices

Giuseppe Verdi

1.

Giuseppe Verdi

Va, pensiero, sull'ali dorate (Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves) (from Nabucco)

Composer: Giuseppe Verdi

Others who chose this artist

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

2.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor - 3rd movement

Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Others who chose this artist

Bing Crosby

3.

Bing Crosby

I'll Walk Alone

Performer: Bing Crosby

Others who chose this artist

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

4.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Là ci darem la mano (from Don Giovanni)

Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Others who chose this artist

Tatiana Troyanos

5.

Tatiana Troyanos

America

Performer: Tatiana Troyanos

Others who chose this artist

Georges Bizet

6.

Castaway's favourite

Georges Bizet

Les tringles des sistres (Gypsy Song) (from Carmen)

Composer: Georges Bizet

Others who chose this artist

Vincenzo Bellini

7.

Vincenzo Bellini

Casta diva (from Norma)

Composer: Vincenzo Bellini

Others who chose this artist

The Beatles

8.

The Beatles

Yesterday

Performer: The Beatles

Others who chose this artist

Book

Inferno by Dante Alighieri

Others who chose this author

Luxury item

A hammock from Hermes

Others who chose a similar luxury

Broadcast

First broadcast: Sat 07 Jan 1978

Director - film, opera and theatre

Roy Plomley's castaway is film director Franco Zeffirelli.

Choices

Georges Bizet

1.

Castaway's favourite

Georges Bizet

Les tringles des sistres (Gypsy Song) (from Carmen)

Composer: Georges Bizet

Others who chose this artist

Ludwig van Beethoven

2.

Ludwig van Beethoven

Symphony No. 9 in D minor 'Choral'

Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven

Others who chose this artist

Gaetano Donizetti

3.

Gaetano Donizetti

Lucia di Lammermoor

Composer: Gaetano Donizetti

Others who chose this artist

The Platters

4.

The Platters

Only You

Performer: The Platters

Others who chose this artist

William Shakespeare

5.

William Shakespeare

Once more unto the breach (from Henry V)

Performer: William Shakespeare

Others who chose this artist

Monks of the Abbey of St Pierre de Solesmes

6.

Monks of the Abbey of St Pierre de Solesmes

Salve Regina

Performer: Monks of the Abbey of St Pierre de Solesmes

Chubby Checker

7.

Chubby Checker

Let's Twist Again

Performer: Chubby Checker

Others who chose this artist

Gioachino Rossini

8.

Gioachino Rossini

The Barber of Seville Overture

Composer: Gioachino Rossini

Others who chose this artist

Book

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Others who chose this author

Luxury item

Perfume

Others who chose a similar luxury

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