Top conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner pulls out of BBC Proms after being accused of ‘hitting’ singer


A revered conductor has pulled out of the BBC Proms after being accused of assaulting a singer.

Sir John Eliot Gardiner, 80, blamed the heat and “a recent change in medication” for an incident where he is alleged to have struck a singer following a performance.

He was at the Berlioz Festival in La Cóte-Saint-André, south-east France, on Tuesday when he reportedly hit William Thomas after a performance of Les Troyens because he was annoyed the singer had left the podium on the wrong side.

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

Representatives for Sir John said: “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.

Sir John withdrew from a further performance at the Festival Berlioz on Wednesday night.

In a statement, the BBC said Sir John had also “decided to withdraw from the performance of [Berlioz’s] The Trojans at this year’s BBC Proms.”

A spokesman for the BBC said earlier: “We take allegations about inappropriate behaviour seriously, and are currently establishing the facts about the incident.”

Sir John’s assistant, Dinis Sousa, will take his place for the Proms concert next month.

The La Cóte-Saint-André region, the birthplace of composer Hector Berlioz, is in the grip of a heatwave.

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

Sir John has returned to the UK with an assistant taking his place.

His lengthy career has seen him perform around the world after making his London debut at Wigmore Hall in 1966.

He founded the Monteverdi Orchestra and has performed with English National Opera, Berlin Philharmonic, Dallas Symphony Orchestra and at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

Earlier this year, he appeared at the King’s coronation conducting the music that welcomed guests arriving at Westminster Abbey.

Thomas, a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in central London, is regarded as one of Britain’s most promising young singers.