The conductor is the musical leader of the opera in all its facets. He/She is responsible for the musical interpretation: what the audience hears in performance. Throughout the rehearsal process and the performances, the conductor guides the singers and the orchestra, asking them to create what he/she believes the opera’s creator (the composer) intended the opera to sound like. The conductor shapes the sound by setting speed (tempo), volume (dynamics), and by making countless stylistic decisions appropriate to the time in which the opera was written. The conductor leads the opera performances from the orchestra pit, on an elevated platform where he/she can maintain eye contact with both the singers on the stage and the orchestra musicians in the pit. Depending on the size of the opera’s cast and orchestra, the conductor can literally be responsible for keeping hundreds of people on the same musical beat! The vast amount of knowledge and training required to prepare and lead opera performances coupled with the dynamic leadership needed to command the attention and collective will of an opera cast and orchestra makes the conductor a special and highly specialized person. The conductor is often referred to as the “Maestro,” which translates to “Master” – a fitting term!