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Prominent British composer John Eliot Gardiner pulls out of engagements following allegations he hit a singer

Prominent classical music conductor John Eliot Gardiner is pulling out of all engagements until next year after allegedly hitting a singer backstage following a concert.

The British conductor said in a statement Thursday that he was stepping back to get “the specialist help I recognize that I have needed for some time.” His agency, Intermusica, said he “deeply regrets his behavior” and intends to get counseling.

“I want to apologize 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,” he said.

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Gardiner, 80, allegedly hit William Thomas after the bass singer left the podium on the wrong side after a performance of Berlioz’s opera “Les Troyens” at the Festival Berlioz in La Cote-Saint-Andre, southeastern France.

Conductor John Eliot Gardiner

Conductor John Eliot Gardiner leads musicians as they perform in Westminster Abbey, ahead of the coronation of King Charles III, in London, England, on May 6, 2023. (Richard Pohle /Pool via AP, File)

U.K. newspaper The Times reported that the conductor confronted Thomas after the show and slapped him in the face. The report said Gardiner also punched Thomas in the mouth and threatened to throw a glass of beer over his head.

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Thomas’ management company, Askonas Holt, confirmed last week that “an incident” took place. “All musicians deserve the right to practice their art in an environment free from abuse or physical harm,” it said in a statement.

Gardiner is a Grammy-winning baroque music conductor who led his Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists in a performance for guests at King Charles III’s coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey in May. He was knighted for his services to music in 1998.

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He has made more than 60 appearances at the BBC Proms, an annual summer classical music extravaganza. It was announced last week that Gardiner will be replaced at a Proms performance on Sept. 3.

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