Conductor apologises ‘after punching singer’ at classical show

A world-renowned British conductor who featured in the King’s coronation has pulled out of the Proms after being accused of assaulting a singer.

Sir John Eliot Gardiner, 80, allegedly punched bass singer William Thomas following a performance at the Festival Berlioz in France, after the performer left the podium in the wrong direction.

The incident is said to have happened backstage, out of sight of the audience, but in front of some of the cast.

Pic: Sebastian Willnow/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
Pic: Sebastian Willnow/AP

Sir John reportedly withdrew from a further show at the festival and will no longer take part in the BBC Proms in September. His assistant Dinis Sousa will take his place.

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

The broadcaster is investigating the matter, saying it takes allegations of inappropriate behaviour seriously and is “currently establishing the facts about the incident”.

Classical music news site Slipped Disc first reported the alleged assault, saying it had received multiple reports.

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Representatives for Mr Thomas confirmed an incident took place on Tuesday but said he was looking forward to future performances, according to the website.

“All musicians deserve the right to practise their art in an environment free from abuse or physical harm,” the representatives are quoted as saying.

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Sir John, who is founder and artistic director of the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra, has won two Grammy awards throughout his career and received more Gramophone Awards than any other living artist, according to the choir’s website.

He has conducted many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the Vienna Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestra, and operas at the Royal Opera House in London and at Teatro alla Scala, in Milan.

In May, during a pre-service programme, he led the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists at Westminster Abbey for the King’s coronation.

Sky News has contacted representatives for both Sir John and Mr Thomas, as well as the festival, for comment.

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