Sir John Eliot Gardiner, 80, has broken his silence after allegedly “punching and slapping” a choir singer in an incident dubbed “The Fight at the Opera”.
The world renowned conductor, a close friend of King Charles, allegedly attacked William Thomas, 29, during an opera in Southern France last week. Classical music website Slipped Disc reported at the time that the alleged incident occurred on August 22 thanks to Mr Thomas exiting the podium on the wrong side after the first part of the performance at the Berlioz Festival.
The industry publication continued to detail how Mr Gardiner allegedly told off the 29-year-old choir singer backstage in front of the rest of the cast before slapping and punching him in the face. Following the alleged incident, Mr Gardiner pulled out of his scheduled performance at the Proms on September 3.
It was reported last week that the BBC, who broadcast the Proms, had investigated the alleged incident involving Mr Gardiner and Mr Thomas and the public broadcaster decided it would not have been comfortable with the King’s friend performing if he had insisted on doing so. Mr Gardiner has since issued a statement regarding the allegations.
Per The Telegraph, the statement from conductor Mr Gardiner reads: “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.”
Prior to Mr Gardiner’s statement today [August 31], it had been reported that the conductors behaviour in France earlier this month had been due to “the scorching 39C heat in La Côte-Saint-André, near Grenoble” and a recent change in medication, a source close to Mr Gardiner claimed. Mr Gardiner was thought to have left France soon after allegedly attacking Mr Thomas to return to Britain to see his doctor. The famed conductor’s assistant, Dinis Sousa, reportedly took up his place for a following performance.
Addressing the alleged altercation, a BBC spokesperson said on August 26: “We take allegations about inappropriate behaviour seriously and are currently establishing the facts about the incident.”
Mr Gardiner is said to enjoy a close friendship with King Charles, following the conductor and the unelected Head of State bonding over a shared love of organic farming and music after meeting at an event in Sandringham. Speaking previously about his relationship with the King, Mr Gardiner once told the Telegraph: “For his 50th birthday I gave him a couple of breeding heifers, and when he knighted me in 1998, he leant forward and whispered, ‘Thanks for the heifers’.”
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