Franco Zeffirelli, (1923- ). Italian opera, stage, and film director. Born illegitimate and orphaned as a young child, he began his career as an actor and theatrical designer. After working as an assistant to Luchino Visconti, he established his reputation for splendid opera productions at La Scala in Milan and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. His films include the Shakespeare adaptations Romeo and Juliet (1968) and Hamlet (1990), the biopic Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1973), about St Francis of Assisi, and several films of operas. His television series Jesus of Nazareth enjoyed great popularity in the late 1970s. Since 1993 Zeffirelli has been a member of the Italian Senate.