The tradition continues for conductor Kent Nagano and storyteller Fred Pellerin: the two accomplices will present their sixth Christmas story in 12 years with the Orchester symphonique de Montréal (OSM), Le secret de Polichignon, at the Maison symphonique until December 17.

The man who was artistic director of the OSM for 15 years seems particularly happy to be back in Montreal when we meet him on Wednesday in the offices of the Maison symphonique. “What’s missing is snow! he said smiling. It seems that I missed a beautiful week of snow, unfortunately there is plenty of sunshine…”

Also happy to see Fred Pellerin again? He leaves a short silence. “But I never lost Fred!” »

Fred Pellerin, who joined the conversation, agrees. This “irregular continuity” and trusting relationship is so unique that neither would do it with another accomplice. “We constructed this language, a form that the maestro does not use without me, nor I without him. Before, we worked diligently, but we became efficient over time. Our ping-pong is effective. »

Their previous Christmas story, Heaven’s Post, was presented in December 2021. “It was very special,” recalls Kent Nagano, who says that it was from the last performance that they decided to do it again. 2023. Does Fred Pellerin still make him laugh so much? “He makes me more than laugh, he makes me speechless! » The maestro, whose French is still impressive, laughs then clarifies.

“Fred is so creative. Preparing for these concerts cannot be done in a few days. We’ve been working on this for six months. Fred became more sophisticated with his knowledge of classical music. For my part, I learned a lot about Quebec, the accent and the dialect! I joke that I now understand 85% of what he says. But the first time…”

For Kent Nagano, the advantage of this collaboration is that the result is original and unique each time. “It’s not a Hollywood sequel: Rocky 1, 2, 3, we find a formula and we repeat. Each time it is very different. » And he was able to see the depth that the storyteller adds to his stories from year to year. “It’s getting more and more emotional. We leave in the evening, yes we laughed, but we had one more layer. »

But what exactly will Polichignon’s Secret be about? “From Méo, the village barber we already know. It will talk about his limits in relation to the secrets of his customers, and there will be a love story, which will end a little sadly on Christmas Eve. »

We’re taking advantage of Kent Nagano’s visit to Montreal to catch up on his news. Now music director of the Hamburg Philharmonic, he says he is “stimulated” by all the projects and challenges that come his way. “That’s the great thing about live art: by definition, it’s not repetitive. We work for a community that moves and evolves, but at the same time we can feel the past. This orchestra will be 375 years old in two years, it’s a great tradition, and it’s great to be a part of it. »

And what does he think of this trend of films about conductors? He who knew Leonard Bernstein personally – he was his student – ​​is in no hurry to see Bradley Cooper’s film about the legendary American leader. “Those who knew him, who knew his depth, don’t really want to go see a fiction about him. Maybe later… I’m not going to say no. But for now, I prefer to keep direct contact. »