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British Conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner Assaults Singer Backstage

British Conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner Assaults Singer Backstage

The conductor struck vocalist William Thomas, 29, across the face after he reportedly left the stage in the wrong direction


The British conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner, who is best known for his performances of the works of J. S. Bach, has apologized after he struck a singer with his fist backstage. The incident took place immediately after a performance of Berlioz’s opera Les Troyens at the Festival Berlioz in La Côte-Saint-André, France.

Gardiner allegedly hit the 29-year-old English bass William Thomas across the face because he was enraged that Thomas had left the stage in the wrong direction.

The day after the incident, the cast of the opera was informed that Gardiner had left urgently for London to see his doctor, and that his assistant Dinis Sousa would conduct the rest of the season.

Gardiner has subsequently opted to withdraw from his upcoming appearance at the BBC Proms, where he was due to conduct the same work. This performance will also be led by Sousa.

"I make no excuses for my behavior and have apologized personally to Will Thomas, for whom I have the greatest respect," Gardiner said in a statement. "I do so again, and to the other artists, for the distress that this has caused."

"I have returned to the UK and have decided to withdraw from conducting all the remaining performances of Les Troyens," he continued. "I wish Dinis Sousa and all the musicians great success for the remaining concerts on the tour. I know that physical violence is never acceptable and that musicians should always feel safe. I ask for your patience and understanding as I take time to reflect on my actions."

"All musicians deserve the right to practise their art in an environment free from abuse or physical harm," said a spokesperson for Will Thomas.

"We continue to look into the events that occurred on Tuesday evening," a spokesperson for the Monteverdi Choir & Orchestra said. "Our values of respect and inclusivity are fundamental to us as a company and we take seriously the welfare of all our performers and employees."

"Sir John Eliot Gardiner has decided to withdraw from the performance of The Trojans at this year’s BBC Proms," said the Proms in a statement. "We are grateful that Dinis Sousa will step in to conduct the performance on 3 September."

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