The conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner has abruptly cancelled an appearance at the Berlioz Festival in France, after reports that he physically assaulted a singer backstage.


Gardiner was conducting Berlioz’s opera Les Troyens across two nights at the festival, which takes place in La Côte-Saint-André, near Grenoble.

On Tuesday 22 August, bass soloist William Thomas left the podium on the wrong side. It’s reported that Gardiner then took the singer to task backstage, hitting him in the face.

On the Wednesday, the festival announced that the conductor would withdraw from conducting the second part of the opera. His place was taken by assistant conductor Dinis Sousa.

Gardiner has also decided to withdraw from the performance of Les Troyens at this year’s BBC Proms. Again, Dinis Sousa will step in to conduct the performance on 3 September.

One of the world's most admired conductors, John Eliot Gardiner is famous for his interpretations of Baroque music, in particular Bach and Monteverdi. His cycle of Beethoven symphonies with the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, one of three ensembles he has founded, is also one of the most admired Beethoven symphony cycles in the catalogue.

Earlier this year, Gardiner made arguably the most high-profile appearance of his career. At the pre-coronation service concert at Westminster Abbey, he conducted two of the ensembles he founded, the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, in music by Bach and Bruckner.


Pic: Chris Christodoulou


Steve Wright
Steve WrightMulti-Platform Content Producer, BBC Music Magazine

Steve has been an avid listener of classical music since childhood, and now contributes a variety of features to BBC Music’s magazine and website. He started writing about music as Arts Editor of an Oxford University student newspaper and has continued ever since, serving as Arts Editor on various magazines.