The moment came between acts during the March 29 performance of his iconic 1981 production of Puccini's La Bohme. As the 85-year-old Zeffirelli took to the stage, surrounded by the full Bohme cast, he received a standing ovation from the sold-out audience.
General Manager Peter Gelb said, "Franco, we're honoring you tonight in front of your adoring fans," and announced that two honorary plaques indicating "that Franco Zeffirelli shaped the history of the Met" would be attached to both sides of the stage- for those entering and leaving the stage to see.
An emotional Zeffirelli - who made his company debut with a 1964 Falstaff - responded: "I feel so extremely moved by your extraordinary welcome... I am speechless with all the emotion : and the commotion!"
To his immediate right was renowned soprano Angela Gheorghiu, who was in the midst of performing the role of MimÐ at the Met for the first time in twelve years. Also featured in the cast - conducted by Nicola Luisotti - are Ainhoa Arteta as Musetta, Ram‹n Vargas as Rodolfo and Ludovic T_zier as Marcello.
The two remaining performances of Zeffirelli's La Bohme will take place April 15 and 18.
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All photos by Marty Sohl.