Director Zeffirelli misses gala event at new Florence museum

FLORENCE, Italy — Tenor Andrea Bocelli and a Haitian children's choir have inaugurated the Franco Zeffirelli International Center of the Performing Arts in Italy, though the eponymous 94-year-old film and theater director's ill health meant he had to miss the gala event.

Organizers said Zeffirelli's health did not permit him to travel from his home in Rome to his native Florence for the gala event Monday ahead of the museum's opening next month. They did not specify the ailments, but Zeffirelli has long suffered side effects after a hip surgery.

British actor Robert Powell, who appeared in Zeffirelli's 1977 mini-series "Jesus of Nazareth," was among about 300 people attending the celebration.

The museum and performing arts center will display some 500 sketches of production sets that Zeffirelli made during his long career.

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