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Italian film and opera director Franco Zeffirelli dies at 96

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Italian film and opera director Franco Zeffirelli dies at 96
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REUTERS/Tony Gentile
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Franco Zeffirelli, the Italian director acclaimed for his work in film, theatre and opera, has died at the age of 96.

In a career spanning more than 60 years, Zeffirelli was celebrated for movies such as Romeo and Juliet and epic opera productions featuring the likes of Joan Sutherland and Maria Callas.

He directed more than two dozen films, working with stars including Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier and Alec Guinness.

On Twitter Dario Nardella, the mayor of Zeffirelli's home city of Florence, described Zeffirelli as "one of the world's greatest men of culture".

"Goodbye dear Maestro, Florence will never forget you," he wrote.

During the war, Zeffirelli fought with Italian partisans and helped the British army after the Allied invasion of Italy. He became the first Italian citizen to receive an honorary knighthood from the UK, which was awarded in 2004.

Zeffirelli also served in the Italian Senate as a member of Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party.

He died in Rome on Saturday after a long illness.