Proms conductor stepping back for ‘reflection and counselling’ after assault allegation

Sir John Eliot Gardiner is withdrawing from all engagements until next year (PA)
Sir John Eliot Gardiner is withdrawing from all engagements until next year (PA)

Conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner said he is stepping down for the rest of the year after he allegedly hit a musician who walked the wrong way off stage.

The conductor withdrew from the BBC Proms last week following the allegation that he struck bass singer William Thomas after a performance in France.

He is alleged to have called the singer a “dozy bastard” over the perceived mishap on Tuesday.

The backstage assault is said to have happened in front of other performers but was not seen by the audience.

Representatives for Sir John said that “the incident may have arisen as a result of a recent change in medication” adding Sir John had been suffering from “extreme heat” in France.

In a statement Sir John, 80, said he is “stepping back” until next year for a time of reflection and to “engage in a course of counselling”.

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

“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.”

His agency Intermusica said he “deeply regrets his behaviour” and will be undertaking “a period of reflection and, in consultation with his medical advisors, will be focusing on his mental health while engaging in a course of counselling”.

This will include “an extensive, tailored course of treatment and he asks for space and privacy while the programme is ongoing,” the agency said.

It was announced last week that Sir John will be replaced at the BBC Proms by Dinis Sousa for a performance on September 3.

The alleged assault took place on Tuesday after a performance of Berlioz’s Les Troyens with the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique and Monteverdi Choir at La Cote-Saint-Andre in France.

Sir John, who has made more than 60 appearances at the Proms, conducted the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists during the King’s coronation, which took place at Westminster Abbey in May.

He has two Grammy wins and has also conducted opera productions at the Royal Opera House, Vienna State Opera and Teatro alla Scala in Milan.