Film director Franco Zeffirelli dies at 96

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli has died aged 96 on Saturday.

The Italian director died after a long illness which had grown worse in recent times, Italian media reported.

“Italian ambassador of cinema, art and beauty. A great director, screenwriter, set designer. A great man of culture,” tweeted Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

“Franco Zeffirelli, one of the world’s greatest men of culture, has passed away this morning. Goodbye dear Maestro, Florence will never forget you,” tweeted Dario Nardella, mayor of Florence.

Outgoing European Parliament president Antonio Tajani said that ‘Franco Zeffirelli’s loss leaves a great void. We lost a master of cinema who brought prestige to Italian culture and creativity throughout the world,’ in a tweet.

The Florence native is one of most respected artistic figures in Italy, and directed stars including Elizabeth Taylor in the 1967 film Taming of the Shrew and Dame Judi Dench on stage in Romeo and Juliet.

He has staged more than 120 operas during his career.

Zeffirelli had started studying architecture but was inspired to make a career in theatre. He worked as a set designer at Florence’s Teatro della Pergola, and would concentrate on theatre throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

Zeffirelli staged “Missa solemnis” in the honour of the 200th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth at the Pope’s request.

He has also served in the Italian senate for two terms as a member of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party.