Maestro accused of striking singer withdraws from performances

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Maestro accused of striking singer withdraws from performances
John Eliot Gardiner leads the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique in a cycle of Beethoven’s symphonies at Carnegie Hall in New York, Feb. 18, 2020. The renowned conductor John Eliot Gardiner, who drew criticism this month when he was accused of hitting a singer in the face after a performance in France, said on Thursday that he would withdraw from performances for the rest of the year as he sought counseling. (James Estrin/The New York Times)

by Javier C. Hernández



NEW YORK, NY.- Renowned conductor John Eliot Gardiner, who drew criticism in recent weeks when he was accused of hitting a singer in the face after a performance in France, said Thursday that he would withdraw from performances for the rest of the year as he sought counseling.

“I am taking a step back in order to get the specialist help I recognize that I have needed for some time,” Gardiner said in a statement. “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.”

Intermusica, the agency that represents Gardiner, said he would withdraw from all concerts until next year to focus “on his mental health while engaging in a course of counseling.” He had at least 10 more planned engagements this year, including a planned six-concert tour in the United States and Canada in October with two of his ensembles, the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists.

“Over the next few months he will be undergoing an extensive, tailored course of treatment and he asks for space and privacy while the program is ongoing,” a spokesperson for Intermusica, Nicholas Boyd-Vaughan, said in a statement.

Gardiner, 80, apologized last week after he was accused of striking the singer, William Thomas, 28, after a performance of the first two acts of Berlioz’s opera “Les Troyens” with two of his ensembles, the Monteverdi Choir and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, at the Festival Berlioz in La Côte-Saint-André. Gardiner abruptly returned to London to see his doctor and withdrew from the rest of a planned European tour with the ensembles.

Gardiner was upset that Thomas had headed the wrong way off the podium at the concert, according to a person who was granted anonymity to describe the incident because the person was not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Gardiner expressed regret last week, saying that he had lost his temper and that he had apologized to Thomas, a rising bass from England.

“I know that physical violence is never acceptable and that musicians should always feel safe,” he said at the time. “I ask for your patience and understanding as I take time to reflect on my actions.”

Thomas was not seriously injured and has continued to perform on the tour. He has not commented on the encounter.

Gardiner, who conducted at the coronation of King Charles III of Britain in May, is a crucial figure in the period-instrument movement and the founder of some of its most treasured ensembles. He has made numerous recordings, many of which are considered classics, and wrote 2013’s “Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven,” about the life and music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

In October, he was to appear with the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists in the United States, including at Carnegie Hall, where he was to lead Bach’s Mass in B Minor and a rare performance of Handel’s “L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato.”

The Monteverdi Choir & Orchestras, a nonprofit that oversees Gardiner’s ensembles, said in a statement Thursday that the tour would proceed without Gardiner, and that a replacement would be announced at a later date.

“The well-being of all our performers and employees is important to us and we respect his decision,” the statement said.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.










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