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Zeffirelli at La Scala

by Vittoria Crespi Morbio.
Essay by Vittoria Crespi Morbio, Il maestro degli incanti / The Master of Charms.
Appendix: Zeffirelli at La Scala from 1953 to 2006 by Andrea Vitalini.
Collection «December Seventh».
Amici della Scala, Milan 2006.
Italian – English edition, pp.129.

An appendix offering a wealth of colour photographs of sketches, costume designs and stage shots illustrates the career of young Zeffirelli, who made his debut at La Scala as opera scenographer and director in 1954. The revivals of the repertory of Piccinni, Pergolesi and Rossini boasted a light-hearted, ebullient interpretation, enriched with original insights, of the 18th-century opera buffa. In his role as costume designer Zeffirelli dressed Giulietta Simionato in the Italiana in Algeri (1953), and directed her the following year in Rossini’s Cenerentola: the singer herself championed Zeffirelli’s debut as director. The director fondly joined in with Maria Callas: we can see him in a photograph where they are trying out a dance step, planned in the Turco in Italia (1955) conducted by Gavazzeni. In his maturity the artist tackled Italian melodrama: he directed Mirella Freni in the historic production of Puccini’s La Bohème directed by Karajan (1963); in Verdi’s Otello (1976) he gave depth to the main character’s physiognomy making it truer, more heartfelt, more anguished. This was a golden moment in Italian opera: Placido Domingo, Piero Cappuccilli, Mirella Freni and Carlos Kleiber worked with Zeffirelli. The stage came back to life in all its glory with the productions of Cavalleria rusticana by Mascagni (1981), Turandot by Puccini (1983), Don Carlo (1992) and Aida (2007) by Verdi.