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Maestro John Eliot Gardiner Accused of Assaulting Singer; Pulls Out of Proms

By Sara Schabas on August 28, 2023

John Eliot Gardiner
John Eliot Gardiner (Photo courtesy of The Philharmonia Orchestra)

The famed conductor allegedly struck and verbally abused the bass William Thomas after he exited the wrong way off stage during a performance.

Sir John Eliot Gardiner is accused of punching, slapping and calling a singer a “dozy bastard” during a performance of Berlioz’s Les Troyens. The singer, William Thomas, reportedly exited the podium the wrong way, provoking the conductor’s wrath. Sir John’s agency later issued a statement citing problems with heat exhaustion and a recent change in the 80-year-old conductor’s medication.

The Apology: Sir John later expressed remorse, saying, “I deeply regret the incident which occurred at the Festival Berlioz at La Côte-Saint-André on Tuesday evening and apologise unreservedly for losing my temper immediately after the performance.” He has since withdrawn from the rest of his tour with the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra, including performances at the BBC Proms.

Zoom Out: The Gardiner assault comes during a time when numerous stories of abuse by conductors and prominent performers are circulating the classical music world. Just a few years ago, Daniel Barenboim was accused of bullying and inciting fear in members of his orchestra. Last week, the countertenor and former University professor David Daniels and his husband pled guilty to sexually assaulting a young singer.

William Thomas’ management, Arkansas Holt, stated in response to Thomas’ assault, “All musicians deserve the right to practice their art in an environment free from abuse or physical harm.” Amen to that.

Sara Schabas
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