Sir John Eliot Gardiner pulls out of remaining 2023 concerts after punching chorus singer

Sir John Eliot Gardiner pulls out of remaining 2023 concerts after punching chorus singer

Sir John Eliot Gardiner has withdrawn from his remaining 2023 concerts following an alleged altercation with a chorus singer.

The world-renowned conductor, 80, is said to have physically attacked choir singer William Thomas, 29, after a performance in La Côte-Saint-André, France for leaving the podium in the wrong direction.

A source from the scene later claimed that no arrangements had been made as to how to enter or exit the stage.

During a celebration after the 22 August show, Gardiner slapped and punched Thomas before a “brief shouting battle”. A representative for the conductor noted that he had been suffering from extreme heat as a result of the 39-degree temperatures in the south-eastern French region at the time.

On Thursday (31 August), it was announced that Gardiner would take a break from scheduled concerts for the rest of the year in order to focus on getting “specialist help”.

“I am taking a step back in order to get the specialist help I recognise that I have needed for some time,” he said in a statement.

“I want to apologise to colleagues who have felt badly treated and anyone who may feel let down by my decision to take time out to address my issues. I am heartbroken to have caused so much distress and I am determined to learn from my mistakes.”

This announcement follows Gardiner pulling out of plans to lead a performance of Berlioz’s The Trojans at this year’s BBC Proms on 3 September as a result of the incident.

Conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner (Getty Images)
Conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner (Getty Images)

Dinis Sousa, Gardiner’s assistant, will take his place for the Royal Albert Hall concert and all remaining performances of The Trojans on the Monteverdi Choir’s European tour.

Gardiner had previously acknowledged “losing his temper” with the singer soon after it was reported.

He wrote: “I make no excuses for my behaviour and have apologised personally to Will Thomas, for whom I have the greatest respect. I do so again, and to the other artists, for the distress that this has caused.”

After the incident, a spokesperson for Thomas, a bass vocalist, confirmed details of the altercation, writing: “All musicians deserve the right to practise their art in an environment free from abuse or physical harm.”