The 95th season of San Francisco Opera begins tonight, with Puccini’s Turandot. On the podium is Music Director Nicola Luisotti, who is leaving that position at the end of this season. This Sunday, he’ll also conduct at the free annual Opera in the Park concert at Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadow, and on the 23rd, he’ll lead performances of Verdi’s La Traviata.

There’s more information about all the upcoming events at the San Francisco Opera website.

“This is my last season as music director, and I owe to this city, to this company a lot. I don’t know how to express my gratitude for this fantastic community, and this fantastic theater, with all the people working inside,” Luisotti says. He’s had this role in the company since 2009, and sees these last productions as appropriately bookending his time here. “Finishing with Verdi and Puccini is the right way to go. I mean, I came here with Verdi, I’m leaving with Verdi. But in the middle I have done Mozart, I have done Strauss, I have done Wagner, Bizet, Donizetti…” As a conductor adds new repertoire, it changes the vision he or she might have of familiar works. And Luisotti says he approaches each opera, no matter how well-known, with a fresh outlook. “I don’t use the same score that I used ten years ago. So, I get a new score, I study it again, I try to discover the beauty of the score, without any hint from the past.”  He says the audience isn’t — and shouldn’t be — aware of the tightrope act that an opera conductor is performing. “To have control of everyone and try to fix things at the moment, when they happen, but you don’t know that it will happen in ten seconds. You are just on the edge of something that you can fall down, but you have to solve the problem in a second. But people, they enjoy the show, they don’t realize how much the conductor is doing at that precise moment. And everything works when the conductor doesn’t disturb too much.”