Veteran director Franco Zeffirelli has been honoured for helping to "shape the history" of New York's Metropolitan Opera with the 12 productions he created for the legendary institution.
The Metropolitan Opera House will be staging three Zeffirelli productions this season, including Puccini's La Boheme, which debuted on Saturday (29Mar08).
Italian Zeffirelli, 85 - who made his Met debut in 1964 with his take on Verdi's Falstaff - appeared onstage during the interval alongside the full Boheme cast, and was greeted with a standing ovation.
Met General Manager Peter Gelb told him, "Franco, we're honoring you tonight in front of your adoring fans," adding that "Franco Zeffirelli shaped the history of the Met".
A visibly overwhelmed Zeffirelli responded, "I feel so extremely moved by your extraordinary welcome... I am speechless with all the emotion - and the commotion!"
The Met is turning to more modern productions, but this week (ends04Apr08) the focus will be on Zeffirelli pioneering work of the past four decades.