June 5, 1987 |
It's established wisdom that nothing succeeds like success, but the flip side of the truism is that nothing draws lightning like success, either. A good example of this paradox is Italian director Franco Zeffirelli, whose success at popularizing grand opera through the medium of film invariably draws lightning bolts from the critics. Zeffirelli's plight came to mind while I was preparing a program for WDVT- AM this afternoon about that South Philadelphia operatic institution, Di Stefano's Victor Cafe, with such guests as Armand Di Stefano, of the founding family, and Guido di Giuseppe, who plays the recordings that recreate the golden age of opera every weekend in the cozy trattoria at 13th and Dickinson.
April 12, 1996 |
Toward the end of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte penned a line that explains why her novel will always present monumental problems for filmmakers. Long after turning down her ardent suitor, St. John Rivers, Jane observes that her words of rejection were never mentioned in any later meeting but "were always written on the air between him and me. " Franco Zeffirelli's latest version of Jane Eyre is a praiseworthy effort that nevertheless fails to...
January 18, 1991 |
Ignore all that talk about how tough it is for a matinee idol like Mel Gibson to play Hamlet. The truth is, Mel's been playing Hamlet for years - he just hasn't had William Shakespeare writing for him. Hamlet is, after all, a guy motivated by revenge - familiar territory for Gibson, who in three pictures roamed the post-apocalyptic wasteland as the vengeful Mad Max, driven by the murder of his young wife and child. The major difference is, Gibson didn't have a lot of highbrow critics wondering where he got his motivation.
December 17, 2007 |
IS THE world ready for "Extreme Makeover: Pope Edition"? Or would it be more "Queer Eye for the Papal Guy"? Franco Zeffirelli hopes so. The 84-year-old filmmaker ("Romeo and Juliet") and opera director, would like to make over what he called Pope Benedict XVI's "cold" image and his "showy" clothes, the Turin daily La Stampa reported Saturday. Coming after the media-savvy Pope John Paul II, "Benedict XVI still has a cold way of communicating, little suited to what is happening around him," Zeffirelli said in La Stampa.
November 5, 1986 |
Franco Zeffirelli's sumptuous and brilliantly conceived production of Verdi's Otello is a masterpiece that defines the difference between what the camera can do for an opera and what it can do to it. With La Traviata (1983) and this version of Verdi's finest inspiration, Zeffirelli demonstrates that all of the caveats about filming opera are simply irrelevant. While clumsier filmmakers have been confounded by the issue of how to deal with the artifice of opera in a contemporary medium that thrives on realism, Zeffirelli turns supposedly insoluble problems to his own advantage.
January 18, 1991 |
The vaudeville cliche may hold that all comedians secretly yearn to play Hamlet. But surely none of them had to face the jokes and snickers that greeted Mel Gibson's brave announcement that he, too, wanted to be the prince. So, before entering Franco Zeffirelli's film, put aside the slings and arrows, and forget all the "G'day, sweet prince" jests and the amused anticipation of a sort of Bard warrior who would give us a Hamlet for the ages - the teen ages. The too, too solid sex-symbol flesh does not melt before the challenge.
September 25, 1992 |
Most directors confronted with the incandescent passions that propel Verdi's La Traviata would do everything in their power to bank the fires. Franco Zeffirelli went in the opposite direction and gave us one of the greatest opera films ever made. Zeffirelli and Verdi proved to be a match made in heaven. The many assets of this 1982 La Traviata include a steadily acted and beautifully sung Alfredo from Placido Domingo, and a moving Violetta from Teresa Stratas. Stratas is a singer who can act, and Zeffirelli exploited this unusual combination to the hilt in this sumptuous version of the opera.
October 18, 1989 |
Franco Zeffirelli, the flamboyant opera director-designer, is not known for taste. Neither can Carlos Kleiber, the perfectionist conductor, be accused of vulgarity. This makes their partnership in the Metropolitan Opera's new production of La Traviata one of the most curious and jarring opera liaisons in recent memory. Zeffirelli's passion for grandiosity and clutter engulfs the human drama in billowy draperies, Fellini-esque choreography and preposterously scaled sets, while Kleiber's astute control of sonoroties gives the love story a rare sensibility.
September 24, 2009 |
Just because the world is devolving toward the fashionably gothic, does the Metropolitan Opera have license to reflect that with its seedy new Tosca? That question encompassed more than one might have thought at Monday's season-opening performance, when the audience's booing wasn't the most damning reaction to a new (and not particularly revisionist) production of Puccini's thriller. More eerily disturbing was the listlessness of the applause, reflecting a disgruntlement that seemed to cast a shadow over what was indisputable good - tenor Marcelo Alvarez, a splendidly nuanced Puccini tenor and the only cast member not uglified by this instantly loathed production.
March 18, 1990 |
It's the season for nominees and winners. So, may we have the envelope, please, for the winner of the coveted award for most violent and socially irresponsible actor of 1989. Step right up and get your statuette with the head bashed in, Robert Englund. The National Coalition on Television Violence, a watchdog group that also tracks movies, chose Englund from among many deserving candidates. He beat out the competition by starring in The Phantom of the Opera and Nightmare on Elm Street V and still finding the time to direct 976-EVIL, another slasher flick.