Fledgling Spanish producer-distributor Alquimia Cinema has boarded Franco Zeffirelli's widely anticipated forthcoming film Callas Forever about the famed opera diva.

Veteran Spanish actors Angela Molina (Live Flesh) and Manuel de Blas (Goya In Bordeaux) have also joined the cast, which is set to star Fanny Ardant in the title role alongside Jeremy Irons as Callas' American impresario. Rome-based Cattleya produces, with Medusa Film co-producing and handling international sales. Callas begins shooting this summer in Paris, Spain and Romania.

The project marks Alquimia's first international co-production. "It has always been my intention to co-produce movies within Europe which have international appeal, with solid talent attached and a definite European sensibility," says Francisco Ramos, who left his position as head of Aurum Producciones to found producer-distributor Alquimia last autumn.

Ramos says he is negotiating boarding another major European co-production before the end of the year, as well as bringing in European partners on at least two of his own productions.

Alquimia's current production slate includes Albacete & Menkes' I Love You Baby, Ramon Salazar's Stones (Piedras), Maria Ripoll's Utopia, Manuel Toledano's A Happy Trail and Jacobo Rispa's You Shouldn't Be Here (No Debes Estar Aqui).

Alquimia will take all rights in Spain on Callas Forever.