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Monday 23 April 2018

Italian actor and director Giorgio Albertazzi dies at 92

Giorgio Albertazzi, left, pictured in 1997 with Nobel Prize laureate Dario Fo (AP)
Giorgio Albertazzi, left, pictured in 1997 with Nobel Prize laureate Dario Fo (AP)

Giorgio Albertazzi, a theatre and film actor and director famed especially for playing, well into old age, the emperor's role based on Memories Of Hadrian, has died in his native Tuscany, Italy.

His family and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's office announced the 92-year-old's death, with the Italian leader hailing him as a "great personality".

President Sergio Mattarella described Albertazzi, who was known for his good looks, as a "maestro to generations" of directors and actors.

On stage, often in Shakespeare plays, Albertazzi worked with some of Italy's most celebrated directors, including Luchino Visconti, for whom he debuted in 1949, and Franco Zeffirelli.

He was most identified with a role he played more than 1,000 times and into his 90s in Italy and abroad - that of Hadrian, drawing on Marguerite Yourcenar's popular book.

Albertazzi first played the role when he was 66, in 1989, and would later say he identified much of himself with it, especially the process of growing old.

"Doing it, I also speak of myself," he said when he was 90. "After all, I feel - a lot - the end of beauty that is consumed, that runs through the text, that seizes the moment in which the harmony of body and mind breaks and enters in conflict."

Among his noted Shakespearean roles were Othello, Henry IV and Hamlet, including an acclaimed performance as the latter at London's Old Vic theatre in 1964.

"He was the greatest Italian actor," said Gigi Proietti, who directed Albertazzi in Falstaff. ''The public knew that very well, and perhaps he, too, was conscious of having the task of being the last of the greats" of the 1900s.

"But always with the desire to experiment, never to be obvious," Proietti told the Italian news agency Ansa. "Directing Albertazzi? It was like playing a Stradivarius."

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