Italian Actor Giorgio Albertazzi Dies at 92

Giorgio Albertazzi - Getty - H 2016
Elisabetta A. Villa/Getty Images

Albertazzi was considered one of his country's greatest actors.

Celebrated Italian theater and film actor-director Giorgio Albertazzi died Saturday in his native Tuscany. He was 92.

Among those mourning the multihyphenate, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi remembered him Saturday in Venice as “a great Italian” and “an artist who was classical and progressive simultaneously.”

Italian President Sergio Mattarella said, "With Giorgio Albertazzi we have lost one of the foremost artists of the theater and contemporary Italian cinema. His interpretations of the great classics remain a milestone in the history of entertainment.” Describing his theatrical body of work, Mattarella called Albertazzi “a maestro and a point of reference for generations of actors and directors."

Known for his looks and powerful stage presence, Albertazzi debuted in 1949 with Luchino Visconti and went on to work with Italy’s most celebrated directors including Franco Zeffirelli, growing to national fame in the 1960s. He continued to collaborate with Visconti, narrating his classic Le Notti Bianchi (1957), starring Marcello Mastroianni.

Albertazzi was a master of Shakespeare and known for roles including Hamlet, Henry IV and Othello on stages throughout Europe.

He may best be remembered for playing Roman emperor Hadrian, a role he took on over 1,000 times in an adaptation of Marguerite Yourcenar’s Memories of Hadrian.  He identified with growing old through the role, which he first took on at age 66 in 1989, and performed for several decades. “Doing it, I also speak of myself,” Albertazzi 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.”

He also turned the role into a 2007 film directed by Matteo Raffaelli

“He was the greatest Italian actor. The public knew that very well, and perhaps he, too, was conscious of having the task of being the last of the greats,” said Gigi Proietti of the actor, who directed Albertazzi onstage in Falstaff. “But always with the desire to experiment, never to be obvious. Directing Albertazzi? It was like playing a Stradivarius.”

In addition to a life in the theater, Albertazzi appeared in more than 40 films throughout his career, as well as several Italian television miniseries including L’idiota, Vita di Dante, Jekyll and Philo Vance.

He is best known in the U.S. for Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad, the hypnotizing romance he starred in with Delphine Seyrig. His last film, La Sindrome di Antonio, directed by Claudio Rossi Massimi, is slated to be released this year.

Albertazzi is survived by his wife, Pia de Tolomei.