By Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Nicola Luisotti says he will end his term as music director of the San Francisco Opera when his contract expires at the end of the 2017-18 season.

The 55-year-old Italian made his debut with the company in 2005 and was hired in January 2007 to succeed Donald Runnicles as music director starting with the 2009-10 season.

In a statement Wednesday, Luisotti says “I believe that close to a decade is about the right time to be leading a company. I want the company’s general director designate, Matthew Shilvock, to be able to move freely into the future with his ideas, his artistic interests and to take San Francisco Opera into a new direction”

Shilvock, who succeeds David Gockley as general director on Aug. 1, says he was “deeply saddened” by Luisotti’s decision.

New York’s Metropolitan Opera also is searching for a new music director after announcing last month that James Levine will retire at the end of this season after 40 years.

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