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(photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
Italian actress Sophia Loren is in Israel to attend the 70th birthday celebrations of Zubin Mehta, lifetime director of the Israel Symphony Orchestra and her close friend. Loren also visited Israel in 1999, on the occasion of Mehta's 30th anniversary as director of the ISO.
On Monday night, Indian-born Mehta, who is also on a visit to Israel with his wife Nancy, was honored by the orchestra in a gala concert at the Palace of Culture in Tel Aviv, which he conducted. The evening included Mozart's Concerto No. 5, conducted by Pinhas Zuckerman as a tribute to Mehta and a 10-minute movie featuring highlights from Mehta's life, by Dalia Meroz, public relations of the orchestra. As a grand finale, a total of 180 musicians performed Berlioz's Fantastic Symphony.
Carlo Ponti, Loren's son by her movie director husband of the same name, is also a conductor and works as Mehta's assistant. Loren and Mehta met when she took her son to him for music lessons as a teenager, according to Motti Verses, director of public relations at the Hilton.
Loren, born in 1934, was a movie icon in the '60s and '70s and in 1960 was awarded an Oscar for her role in La Ciocara ("Two Women"), based on Alberto Moravia's erotic story - Loren also starred in the made-for-TV remake of this classic in 1988. She is a veteran of over 100 movies, several filmed together with director Federico Fellini's alter ego, Marcello Mastroanni.
Loren, once a major sex symbol on a par with Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot, has frequently been voted in public polls as the most beautiful woman in the world.