In Thursday’s (8/31) Washington Post, Michael Andor Brodeur writes, “Only a handful of people witnessed the acclaimed conductor John Eliot Gardiner strike the 29-year-old English bass singer William Thomas, but it took less than a day for it to become the slap heard ’round the world. (Well, the classical world, at least.) The incident happened at a recent performance Gardiner was giving with his Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique of Berlioz’s Les Troyens in the composer’s hometown of La Côte-Saint-André … Thomas had apparently vexed Gardiner by exiting the podium to the wrong side, a grievous enough error to send the conductor into a deferred rage … If this sounds familiar, it could be because problematic maestros are a thing right now. In recent years, and to wide acclaim, we’ve seen dramatic celebrations of meanie maestros [in films including Whiplash and Tár]…. What about this unbelievable episode makes it so easy to believe? For one thing, the incident does not appear to have been a one-off for Gardiner…. This brings us to another element of the story: the myth of the bully maestro, which isn’t really a myth so much as a problem we’ve worked diligently for decades to mythologize.”
On August 30, Gardiner announced that he has withdrawn from his remaining 2023 concerts and will commence mental health counseling.