MONTREAL-BORN conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, only the eighth music director in the history of the Philadelphia Orchestra, has blazed onto our scene like a comet. (Perhaps you've seen his face on the side of a SEPTA bus?)
Bursting with talent, 38-year-old Nézet-Séguin has had an enthusiastic response from sellout crowds during his first full season here, which wraps with three concerts starting Thursday. He's also earned real devotion from the orchestra's musicians.
His exuberant interpretation of a blazing Mahler First Symphony two weeks ago led to a torn jacket, which he removed offstage before taking a bow and ripped fully to the audience's delight.
Just after the jacket-shredding - and after taking his usual post-concert questions from Kimmel Center patrons - the maestro spoke with Daily News classical music contributor Tom Di Nardo about his impressions of Philadelphia and its audiences.
Q Why have you said the Philadelphia audiences are special, compared to your other posts?
What's distinctive is this very unusual combination of longtime attendees who are very knowledgeable about music. They may not be musicians, but they have listened and are seasoned concertgoers, and you can tell the difference.
Also, there's a pride, a sense of ownership. . . . When we are on stage, and the lush sound of the Philadelphia Orchestra unfolds, we can feel a response from the audience as if they were talking to us. They realize that these are the star players of our time, like the star players of the sports teams, and that identification resonates with us.
Q What is it like to see your face on the side of buses, and on posters all around the city?
Having your image bigger than life all over the city is obviously special. . . . I heard that Philadelphia had a neighborhood feel, but I found out very quickly that people of every age group - in restaurants, at the airport - say, "Yes, we know you, Yannick."
Q The Saturday before Easter, you led the Metropolitan Opera's matinee of Verdi's "La Traviata" in New York and then conducted Bach's "St. Matthew Passion" with the Philadelphia Orchestra that evening. What was that like?
I had done this double duty also last season with "Faust" [also at the Met] and then a Jennifer Higdon, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky program that night.
"Faust" was longer, and there was more pressure to not arrive here late. . . . Maybe sometime we should organize a train for patrons to come along and share Yannick's crazy schedule!
Q Your schedule is packed when you're in town. What have you had the opportunity to explore in Philadelphia so far?
This season's idea was to connect to obligations, responsibility, personnel issues and future goals. Life in the city is the second step, and I'll be here more often next season.
I've been to South Philly and would like to walk on Market Street in Old City, where Pierre [his partner Pierre Tourville] went alone to see the stores. . . . And I've driven through Fairmount Park, but really want to jog in the park and enjoy the nature so close to downtown.
Q What Philly restaurants are your favorites so far? Do they have to be French, and do any make you homesick for Montreal?
The scene here is so great, but I'm partial to the family feel of Girasole. And, of course, Parc. It's close to where I'll be looking for a next home, near Rittenhouse Square.