NEW YORK (AP) _ Franco Zeffirelli, who has directed film, theater and opera worldwide, is being honored this weekend for the dozen lavish productions he created for the Metropolitan Opera.
Three are being performed this season, including "La Boheme," which was opening Saturday night on the stage where the Italian made his Met directorial debut in 1964 with a production of Verdi's "Falstaff."
Between acts at Saturday's performance, the opera house was to honor Zeffirelli onstage.
On Monday, stars from Zeffirelli's film and stage productions will attend a Metropolitan Opera Guild luncheon at Manhattan's Waldorf-Astoria hotel.
Soprano Angela Gheorghiu — who sings in the current "Boheme" — and Jeremy Irons will offer musical and spoken tributes for an audience that will include actors Lynn Redgrave and Eli Wallach, Met General Manager Peter Gelb, tenor Marcello Giordani, baritone Thomas Hampson, sopranos Patricia Racette and Kiri Te Kanawa, cabaret legend Barbara Cook, designer Oscar de la Renta, and Cardinal Edward Egan, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York.
While "wandering the world," as he puts it, Zeffirelli is also helping compile two books — one on his life's work in opera and cinema, the other his Met productions.
"I have always been full of doubts," said the Florence-born Zeffirelli, adding with a chuckle: "But in the end, I have to agree that I'm quite a good director."
Four decades after he filled the world's movie screens and fans' hearts with "Romeo and Juliet," he's still signing autographs for the Oscar-winning film.
Theaters across the country are celebrating the 40th anniversary of what fans have dubbed "R&J" with special showings, and Zeffirelli is happy to scribble his name on DVDs.
Zeffirelli says the "Romeo and Juliet" story is never outdated.
"Honestly, in the heart of hearts of adolescents today, there is the same desire to live an adventure of this same intensity," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "The film is only the carrier of this eternal love story. There is no other story that is so perfectly engineered and resounds so promptly with the affairs of the heart."
At his villa outside Rome, Zeffirelli still receives letters about the film from new and very young fans.
"I identify completely with American kids today," he says. "Like me, they are comfortable with what's stimulating in life — in everything."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.