Luchino Visconti

Luchino Visconti di Modrone, Count of Lonate Pozzolo (Italian: [luˈkiːno visˈkonti di moˈdroːne]; 2 November 1906 – 17 March 1976), was an Italian theatre, opera and cinema director, as well as a screenwriter. Visconti was one of the fathers of Italian neorealism in film, but later moved towards luxurious-looking films obsessed with beauty, death and European history – especially the decay of aristocracy. Among his best-known films are Ossessione (1943), Senso (1954), Rocco and His Brothers (1960), The Leopard[1] (1963), The Damned (1969), Death in Venice (1971) and Ludwig (1972).

Luchino Visconti
Luchino Visconti 1972.jpg
Visconti in 1972
Luchino Visconti di Modrone

(1906-11-02)2 November 1906
Died17 March 1976(1976-03-17) (aged 69)
RelativesEriprando Visconti (nephew)
AwardsPalme d'Or
1963 The Leopard
Golden Lion
1965 Vaghe stelle dell'Orsa


Luchino Visconti in 1972

Luchino Visconti was born into a prominent noble family in Milan, one of seven children of Giuseppe Visconti di Modrone, Duke of Grazzano Visconti and Count of Lonate Pozzolo, and his wife Carla[2] (née Erba, heiress to Erba Pharmaceuticals). He was formally known as Count don Luchino Visconti di Modrone, and his family is a branch of the Visconti of Milan. In his early years, he was exposed to art, music and theatre: he studied cello with the Italian cellist and composer Lorenzo de Paolis (1890–1965) and met the composer Giacomo Puccini, the conductor Arturo Toscanini and the writer Gabriele D'Annunzio.[citation needed]

During World War II, Visconti joined the Italian Communist Party.[citation needed]

Visconti made no secret of his bisexuality. His last partner was the Austrian actor Helmut Berger, who played Martin in Visconti's film The Damned.[3] Berger also appeared in Visconti's Ludwig in 1973 and Conversation Piece in 1974, along with Burt Lancaster. Other lovers included Franco Zeffirelli,[4] who also worked as part of the crew in production design, as assistant director, and other roles in a number of Visconti's films, operas, and theatrical productions.

According to Visconti's autobiography, he and Umberto II of Italy had a homosexual relationship during their youth in the 1920s.[5]

Visconti smoked 120 cigarettes a day.[6] He suffered a stroke in 1972, but continued to smoke heavily.[citation needed] He died in Rome of another stroke at the age of 69, on 17 March 1976.[citation needed] There is a museum dedicated to the director's work in Ischia.[citation needed]



He began his filmmaking career as an set dresser on Jean Renoir's Partie de campagne (1936) through the intercession of their common friend Coco Chanel.[7] After a short tour of the United States, where he visited Hollywood, he returned to Italy to be Renoir's assistant again, this time for Tosca (1941), a production that was interrupted and later completed by German director Karl Koch.

Together with Roberto Rossellini, Visconti joined the salotto of Vittorio Mussolini (the son of Benito, who was then the national arbitrator for cinema and other arts).[citation needed] Here he presumably also met Federico Fellini. With Gianni Puccini, Antonio Pietrangeli and Giuseppe De Santis, he wrote the screenplay for his first film as director: Ossessione (Obsession, 1943), one of the first neorealist movies and an unofficial adaptation of the novel The Postman Always Rings Twice.[8]

In 1948, he wrote and directed La terra trema (The Earth Trembles), based on the novel I Malavoglia by Giovanni Verga. Visconti continued working throughout the 1950s, but he veered away from the neorealist path with his 1954 film, Senso, shot in colour. Based on the novella by Camillo Boito, it is set in Austrian-occupied Venice in 1866. In this film, Visconti combines realism and romanticism as a way to break away from neorealism. However, as one biographer notes, "Visconti without neorealism is like Lang without expressionism and Eisenstein without formalism".[9] He describes the film as the "most Viscontian" of all Visconti's films. Visconti returned to neorealism once more with Rocco e i suoi fratelli (Rocco and His Brothers, 1960), the story of Southern Italians who migrate to Milan hoping to find financial stability. In 1961, he was a member of the jury at the 2nd Moscow International Film Festival.[10]

Throughout the 1960s, Visconti's films became more personal. Il Gattopardo (The Leopard, 1963) is based on Lampedusa's novel of the same name about the decline of the Sicilian aristocracy at the time of the Risorgimento. It starred American actor Burt Lancaster in the role of Prince Don Fabrizio. This film was distributed in America and Britain by Twentieth-Century Fox, which deleted important scenes. Visconti repudiated the Twentieth-Century Fox version.[citation needed]

It was not until The Damned (1969) that Visconti received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The film, one of Visconti's better known works, concerns a German industrialist's family which begins to disintegrate during the Nazi consolidation of power in the 1930s. Its decadence and lavish beauty are characteristic of Visconti's aesthetic.

Visconti's final film was The Innocent (1976), in which he returns to his recurring interest in infidelity and betrayal.


Visconti was also a celebrated theatre and opera director. During the years 1946 to 1960 he directed many performances of the Rina Morelli-Paolo Stoppa Company with actor Vittorio Gassman as well as many celebrated productions of operas.

Visconti's love of opera is evident in the 1954 Senso, where the beginning of the film shows scenes from the fourth act of Il trovatore, which were filmed at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. Beginning when he directed a production at Milan's Teatro alla Scala of La vestale in December 1954, his career included a famous revival of La traviata at La Scala in 1955 with Maria Callas and an equally famous Anna Bolena (also at La Scala) in 1957 with Callas. A significant 1958 Royal Opera House (London) production of Verdi's five-act Italian version of Don Carlos (with Jon Vickers) followed, along with a Macbeth in Spoleto in 1958 and a famous black-and-white Il trovatore with scenery and costumes by Filippo Sanjust at the Royal Opera House in 1964. In 1966 Visconti's luscious Falstaff for the Vienna State Opera conducted by Leonard Bernstein was critically acclaimed. On the other hand, his austere 1969 Simon Boccanegra with the singers clothed in geometrical costumes provoked controversy.



Feature filmsEdit

Year Original title International English title Awards
1943 Ossessione Obsession
1948 La terra trema The Earth Will Tremble Special International Award — 9th Venice International Film Festival
Nominated – Grand International Prize of Venice — 9th Venice International Film Festival
1951 Bellissima Bellissima
1954 Senso Senso or The Wanton Countess Nominated – Golden Lion — 15th Venice International Film Festival
1957 Le notti bianche White Nights Silver Lion Prize18th Venice International Film Festival
Nominated – Golden Lion — 18th Venice International Film Festival
1960 Rocco e i suoi fratelli Rocco and His Brothers Special Prize – 21st Venice International Film Festival
FIPRESCI Prize – 21st Venice International Film Festival
1961 Nastro d'Argento for Best Director
1961 Nastro d'Argento for Screenplay
Nominated – Golden Lion — 21st Venice International Film Festival
1963 Il gattopardo The Leopard Palme d'Or1963 Cannes Film Festival
1965 Vaghe stelle dell'Orsa Sandra Golden Lion — 26th Venice International Film Festival
1967 Lo straniero The Stranger Nominated – Golden Lion — 28th Venice International Film Festival
1969 La caduta degli dei The Damned 1970 Nastro d'Argento for Best Director
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay42nd Academy Awards
1971 Morte a Venezia Death in Venice 25th Anniversary Prize — 1971 Cannes Film Festival
David di Donatello for Best Director — 16th David di Donatello Awards
1972 Nastro d'Argento for Best Director
Nominated — Palme d'Or — 1971 Cannes Film Festival
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Film25th British Academy Film Awards
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Direction — 25th British Academy Film Awards
1973 Ludwig Ludwig David di Donatello for Best Director — 18th David di Donatello Awards
1974 Gruppo di famiglia in un interno Conversation Piece 1975 Nastro d'Argento for Best Director
1976 L'innocente The Innocent

Other filmsEdit


Year Title and Composer Opera House Principal cast / Conductor
1954 La vestale,
Gaspare Spontini
La Scala Maria Callas, Franco Corelli, Ebe Stignani, Nicola Zaccaria
Conducted by Antonino Votto[11]
1955 La sonnambula,
Vincenzo Bellini,
La Scala Maria Callas, Cesare Valletti, Giuseppe Modesti
Conducted by Leonard Bernstein[12]
1955 La traviata,
Giuseppe Verdi
La Scala Maria Callas, Giuseppe Di Stefano, Ettore Bastianini
Conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini[13]
1957 Anna Bolena,
Gaetano Donizetti
La Scala Maria Callas, Giulietta Simionato, Nicola Rossi-Lemeni
Conducted by Gianandrea Gavazzeni[14]
1957 Iphigénie en Tauride,
Christoph Willibald Gluck
La Scala Maria Callas, Franceso Albanese, Anselmo Colzani, Fiorenza Cossotto
Conducted by Nino Sanzogno[15]
1958 Don Carlo, Verdi Royal Opera House,
Jon Vickers, Tito Gobbi, Boris Christoff, Gré Brouwenstijn
Conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini[16]
1958 Macbeth, Verdi Spoleto Festival William Chapman & Dino Dondi; Ferruccio Mazzoli & Ugo Trama;Shakeh Vartenissian.
Conducted by Thomas Schippers[17]
1959 Il duca d'Alba, Donizetti Spoleto Festival[18] Luigi Quilico, Wladimiro Ganzarolli, Franco Ventriglia, Renato Cioni, Ivana Tosini.
Conductor: Thomas Schippers[19]
1961 Salome, Richard Strauss Spoleto Festival[18] George Shirley, Lili Chookasian, Margarei Tynes, Robert Anderson, Paul Arnold.
Conductor: Thomas Schippers[19]
1963 Il diavolo in giardino,
Franco Mannino (1963)
Teatro Massimo, Palermo[18] Ugo Benelli, Clara Petrella, Gianna Galli, Antonio Annaloro, Antonio Boyer.
Conductor: Enrico Medioli.
Libretto: Visconti & Filippo Sanjust[19]
1963 La traviata, Verdi Spoleto Festival Franca Fabbri, Franco Bonisolli, Mario Basiola
Conducted by Robert La Marchina[20]
1964 Le nozze di Figaro,
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Teatro dell'Opera di Roma[21] Rolando Panerai, Uva Ligabue, Ugo Trama, Martella Adani, Stefania Malagù.
Conductor: Carlo Maria Giulini[19]
1964 Il trovatore Bolshoi Opera, Moscow (September) Pietro Cappuccilli, Gabriella Tucci, Giulietta Simionato, Carlo Bergonzi
Conducted by Gianandrea Gavazzeni[22]
1964 Il trovatore, Verdi Royal Opera House, London (November)
(Sanjust production)
Peter Glossop, Gwyneth Jones & Leontyne Price, Giulietta Simionato, Bruno Prevedi
Conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini[23]
1965 Don Carlo, Verdi Teatro dell'Opera di Roma Cesare Siepi, Gianfranco Cecchele, Kostas Paskalis, Martti Talvela, Suzanne Sarroca, Mirella Boyer.
Conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini.[24]
1966 Falstaff, Verdi Vienna Staatsoper Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Rolando Panerai, Murray Dickie, Erich Kunz, Ilva Ligabue, Regina Resnik.
Conducted by Leonard Bernstein[25]
1966 Der Rosenkavalier, Strauss Royal Opera House, London[21] Sena Jurinac, Josephine Veasey, Michael Langdon.
Conductor: Georg Solti[26]
1967 La traviata, Verdi Royal Opera House, London Mirella Freni, Renato Cioni, Piero Cappuccilli.
Conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini[27]
1969 Simon Boccanegra, Verdi Vienna Staatsoper Eberhard Wächter, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Gundula Janowitz, Carlo Cossutta
Conducted by Josef Krips[28]
1973 Manon Lescaut,
Giacomo Puccini
Spoleto Festival[21] Nancy Shade, Harry Theyard, Angelo Romero, Carlo Del Bosco.
Conductor: Thomas Schippers.[19]



  1. ^ 'THE LEOPARD' IN ITS ORIGINAL LAIR: Care and Authenticity Mark screen Version of Modern Classic By HERBERT MITGANG. New York Times 29 July 1962: 69
  2. ^ "M/M Icon: Luchino Visconti", Manner of Man Magazine online at, 2 November 2010. Retrieved 18 November 2012
  3. ^ "The Damned". Retrieved 30 March 2020.
  4. ^ Silva, Horacio, "The Aristocrat", The New York Times, 17 September 2006. (Overview of Visconti's life and career) Retrieved 7 November 2011
  5. ^ Dall'Oroto, Giovanni "Umberto II" from Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History, London: Psychology Press, 2002 p. 453.
  6. ^ Thomson, David (15 February 2003). "The decadent realist". Retrieved 26 December 2017 – via
  7. ^ Bacon, Henry (1998). Visconti: Explorations of Beauty and Decay. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 6. ISBN 9780521599603.
  8. ^ Bacon, Henry (1998). Visconti: Explorations of Beauty and Decay. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 14. ISBN 9780521599603.
  9. ^ Nowell-Smith, p. 9.
  10. ^ "2nd Moscow International Film Festival (1961)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  11. ^ Ardoin 1977, p. 89
  12. ^ Ardoin 1977, p. 93
  13. ^ Ardoin 1977, p. 96
  14. ^ Ardoin 1977, p. 120
  15. ^ Ardoin 1977, p. 123
  16. ^ Viscontiana 2001, p. 113
  17. ^ Viscontiana 2001, pp. 62–63
  18. ^ a b c Viscontiana 2001, p. 142
  19. ^ a b c d e "Lirica": Operas directed by Visconti on
  20. ^ Viscontiana 2001, p. 64
  21. ^ a b c Viscontiana 2001, p. 143
  22. ^ Viscontiana 2001, p. 65
  23. ^ Viscontiana 2001, p. 65–66
  24. ^ Viscontiana 2001, p. 66
  25. ^ Viscontiana 2001, pp. 66–67
  26. ^ Royal Opera House performance archive for 21 April 1966 on
  27. ^ Viscontiana 2001, p. 67
  28. ^ Viscontiana 2001, p. 68


  • Ardoin, John, The Callas Legacy, London: Duckworth, 1977 ISBN 0-7156-0975-0
  • Bacon, Henry, Visconti: Explorations of Beauty and Decay, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998 ISBN 0-521-59960-1
  • Düttmann, Alexander García, Visconti: Insights into Flesh and Blood, translated by Robert Savage, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009 ISBN 9780804757409
  • Glasenapp, Jörg (ed.): Luchino Visconti (= Film-Konzepte, vol. 48). Munich: edition text + kritik 2017.
  • Iannello, Silvia, Le immagini e le parole dei Malavoglia Roma: Sovera, 2008 (in Italian)
  • Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey, Luchino Visconti. London: British Film Institute, 2003. ISBN 0-85170-961-3
  • Visconti bibliography, University of California Library, Berkeley. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  • Viscontiana: Luchino Visconti e il melodramma verdiano, Milan: Edizioni Gabriele Mazzotta, 2001. A catalog for an exhibition in Parma of artifacts relating to Visconti's productions of operas by Verdi, curated by Caterina d'Amico de Carvalho, in Italian. ISBN 88-202-1518-7

External linksEdit