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Today, in Florence, the preview of “The Franco Zeffirelli Centre for the performing arts

July 27, 2017 Destination Europe No Comments Email Email

Today’s preview for press and civic authorities marks an important milestone as the International Centre for the Performing Arts of the non-profit Fondazione Franco Zeffirelli, founded in the former courthouse of Piazza San Firenze, moves toward becoming fully operational.

At 11am, Francesco Ermini Polacci, co-director of the Centre and artistic director of the concert program hosted by the Fondazione, presented to Mayor of Florence Dario Nardella, Vice Mayor Cristina Giachi and numerous figures of the Tuscan city’s institutional and cultural elite—as well as many guests from far-flung locations, including actors who worked with the Maestro or who wanted to express their fondness for his work by attending, plus representatives from the Italian and international press—this structure, which aims to be not just a hub for showcasing the work of Franco Zeffirelli, but a training ground for young generations working toward careers in performing arts, such as directing, stage design, lighting, scoring and soundtrack composition, and screenwriting.

The Fondazione’s Executive Vice President Pippo Zeffirelli said, also on behalf of his adoptive father, “We are happy that the grand gesture of love and devotion that Franco Zeffirelli made—giving his life’s work and a portion of his economic resources to the Fondazione and its educational, archival, bibliographic, museum and expository activities—is being immortalized here today.”

“You will be struck,” Pippo Zeffirelli continued, “by the extremely evocative set-up, which reorganizes and accounts for a nearly 70-year career of a man of multifaceted ingenuity; the immense value in his astonishing drafts, true works of art that immortalized his ideas before they were brought to film or theatrical or operatic stagings; or the meaning-rich costumes on display, which he dreamed up, down to their sumptuous embroidery; or the nearly 10,000 books on the most varied of subjects, which he consulted as he carried out his work; and a limitless archive of documents. In the offices, classrooms and library we were also able to repurpose the wooden furnishings of the courthouse.”

Franco Zeffirelli elected to donate the fruits of his imaginative, ingenious spirit to Florence and to the world, because none of it should be lost or ignored—all of it is vital nourishment for the creative force of young talents in various sectors of the performing arts.

“We are excited and honored to inaugurate the International Centre for the Performing Arts,” declared Mayor of Florence Dario Nardella, “which will bring together the large-scale professional legacy of the masterful Franco Zeffirelli. A centre dedicated to the enormous amount of material amassed through his decades of cinematic, scenographic, theatrical and operatic successes, and one that will include a museum, library, courses in direction, script writing, set design, photography, costuming, and acting. Beginning today, the former courthouse of San Firenze will no longer be a beautiful but empty container in the center of Florence; instead, it will become a benchmark for all young people who want to blaze a trail in the performing arts, and will be a genuine cultural jewel in the heart of the city.”

The guests wove their way through room after room, getting to see the classrooms, the Library and Archive, as well as the reception and refreshment areas, all on the ground floor. The ground floor is also the location of the Baroque oratory, which the Centre will use as a music room for 120 days through an agreement with the City of Florence, which will reserve the space for other uses during the remainder of the year.

The first floor holds the actual Museum, with a layout that captivates and engages the visitor, who will enter into the creative “furor” of Franco Zefferelli, transferred to each type of project he took on and evident from his drafts, which describe every scene down to the tiniest details, juxtaposed with synthetic and expressive director’s notes.

The visitor route culminates in the immense Inferno room, where a full HD short film is screened, which uses digital techniques to animate the drafts and conceptual art drawings that the Maestro created to depict his personal vision of the Inferno, based on Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. Begun as a cinematographic project in the 1970s but never brought to completion, few traces of Zeffirelli’s Inferno remain: only the 38 magnificent tables he drew depicting the Supreme Poet’s exploration of the dark forest, his meeting with Virgil, access to the infernal valley and journey through the circles of hell until exiting and returning to the surface-level world. The project was never carried out because Alfredo Bini could not find partners to support the important production effort. Zeffirelli would have chosen Dustin Hoffman to play his Dante.

Another grand Zeffirelli success documented in the rooms is that of Jesus of Nazareth, which was screened both on television and in cinemas worldwide, with more than a half billion viewers. Many intriguing anecdotes remain in the air about this miniseries, such as the story of the actor Robert Powell (in the role of Christ), who recalls a moment of synchronicity that struck him during the Crucifixion.

During the event, Francesco Ermini Polacci organized an evocative musical program, a prelude to the rich programming that he put in place for the Centre’s future initiatives, which can be found in the press kit.

On the program, in collaboration with the Conservatorio Luigi Cherubini of Florence, is Claudio Monteverdi’s Toccata dall’Orfeo, truly emblematic of the birth of melodrama, performed by Giovanni Agriesti (trumpet), Damiano Giani (trumpet), Luca Pieraccini (trumpet), Matteo Spolveri (trumpet), Remi Houlle (percussion), and Tommaso Tabellini (percussion); in collaboration with the Associazione A. Gi. Mus. Firenze, violinist Pier Paolo Riccomini will perform Giga, taken from Partita n. 2 in D minor (BWV 1004) by Johann Sebastian Bach, in synthesis with the Baroque structure of the San Firenze complex.

The International Centre for the Performing Arts was made possible by the City of Florence, which owns the property and granted a subsidized rental fee as an acknowledgment of the cultural nature of the project. Generous supporters of the project include Russian entrepreneur Mikhail Kusnirovich, through his brands Gum department store in Moscow’s Red Square and Bosco dei Ciliegi; the family of the American-Canadian financier Robert Friedland; and technical sponsors Targetti Sankey S.p.A. and Illum S.r.l.


The Fondazione Franco Zeffirelli Onlus, based in Florence, is a non-profit organization established by Franco Zeffirelli. Its objective is to make the director and producer’s artistic and cultural patrimony available to performance arts connoisseurs and enthusiasts, a legacy accumulated over his successful 70-year career. The Archive and Library are an extraordinary patrimony deemed “of particular historical interest” by the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities. Now this legacy has been donated to The Franco Zeffirelli International Centre for the Performing Arts as an intrinsic part of its activities. The Foundation’s President is Franco Zeffirelli, Gianni Letta Honorary President and Pippo Corsi Zeffirelli Vice President.

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