Sir John Eliot Gardiner has withdrawn from all concerts to focus on his mental health after punching a singer.
The world-renowned British conductor struck a member of his own chorus, named William Thomas, in a furious backstage row following a concert in France.
Sir John Eliot, 80, has now decided to withdraw from all of his concert commitments to focus on his mental health with a counselling course.
The decision to suspend work until 2024 was made after consultation with medical advisers.
In a statement, Sir John Eliot said: “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”.
Representatives of Sir John Eliot have said that over the next few months the leading figure in British classical music will embark on an extensive, tailored course of treatment.
It is understood that he will no longer take the podium at planned concerts, including a performance of his beloved Bach at New York’s Carnegie Hall in October, and there is uncertainty regarding a tour of Handel’s Israel in Egypt encompassing Barcelona and Versailles scheduled for early 2024.
No definite return date
It is understood there is no hard and fast timeline for his treatment, and therefore no certain return date.
The conductor, who performed at the coronation of King Charles, had previously announced his withdrawal from the BBC Proms following the backstage row which took place on August 22.
It is understood the BBC executive would have been uncomfortable with the conductor appearing at the event and likely would have taken action if he had not voluntarily stepped back from his duties.
Sources have suggested that tempers may have become frayed by the intense 37C heat at the Berlioz Festival in the French composer’s birthplace of La Côte-Saint-André, which was compounded by the ensemble performing in the theatre, Le Théâtre-Lyrique, under full lights, and tackling the five-hour-long opera Les Troyens.
At the close of the show, it was reported that Sir John Eliot rebuked Mr Thomas, 29, for exiting the stage the wrong way.
Once backstage, the conductor slapped and punched the singer and called him a “dozy bugger”, sources said.
The conductor flew back to London for medical attention following the clash, and in the days following Mr Thomas released a statement through his representatives, saying that “all musicians deserve the right to practise their art in an environment free from abuse or physical harm”.
Mr Thomas is a member of the Monteverdi Choir, founded in 1964 by Sir John Eliot, which is now set to continue its programme without the conductor.
Dinis Sousa, the choir’s associate conductor, filled in for a subsequent show in France, and will retain the role for the Proms performance of Les Troyens on September 3 as well as future shows.
The behaviour of prominent conductors has become a subject of interest in recent months following a positive critical response to the Oscar-nominated 2023 film Tar, which follows the eponymous lead played by Cate Blanchett as she slips from an untouchable conducting genius to become a pariah in the classical world.