Exclusive: Glyndebourne sacks a conductor

Exclusive: Glyndebourne sacks a conductor


norman lebrecht

November 22, 2019

The opera festival has parted company with Gareth Hancock, a member of the music staff, after receiving a complaint, apparently from a singer.

Glyndebourne have issued this statement to Slipped Disc:

Glyndebourne would like to clarify the internal process that led to the conclusion of our professional relationship with Gareth Hancock.

In October 2019, an employee brought a complaint of inappropriate behaviour by Gareth Hancock to Glyndebourne’s HR department, who immediately alerted senior management and launched an internal investigation.

During the investigation, clear evidence of inappropriate behaviour from Gareth Hancock came to light, and Glyndebourne took the decision to withdraw his 2020 contract. No further evidence of similar behaviour towards other employees has come to light..

Glyndebourne regards as our highest priority the safety and right to dignity of all our staff and does not tolerate or condone any behaviour that contravenes our policies and standards. Glyndebourne is a member of the Guardians programme set up by The Old Vic, has a written Dignity at Work policy that is shared with all employees, and a safeguarding policy outlining 10 Principles To Encourage Safer and More Supportive Working Practices in Theatre. Glyndebourne has also undertaken a project in 2019 looking at all aspects of working culture.

Gareth Hancock is also Head of Opera at the Royal Academy of Music and a frequent conductor at UK opera companies. We understand that the complaint concerned a text. No physical act was involved.

We have been unable to contact Mr Hancock.


  • Doug says:

    Wrong pronoun, perhaps? Mao’s Little Generals March Onward!

  • Cynical Bystander says:

    I”m sure this sort of thing goes on in every walk of life. Someone crosses a line, an investigation occurs and action is taken I fail to see what it has to do with prurient minded muck rakers and curtain twitchers who now see it as their moral duty to wash other people’s dirty laundry in public. This man has paid a price for an inappropriate action. The fact that you bring in his other role at RAM probably means that he will be subject to further pressure which nowadays send de riguer in today’s ‘Crucible’ of hysteria. Shameful.

    • Andrew says:

      It’s very unclear to me what point you are making. The mention of his post at RAM in a music blog is surely neither here nor there. No doubt RAM will be anxious to protect its staff and students from being harassed.

      • Student of Gareth says:

        Hahahahahahahhahahahahahhahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahah RAM have had upwards of 30 complaints about this man and have done nothing. Time’s up.

  • MDS says:

    Gosh, another one. Why do they do it?
    With such a verifying statement from his former employer presumably his position at the RAM is untenable now. It’ll be interesting to see whether they put the interests of their students first.

    • Jeremy Winterly says:

      The RAM is run by misogynistic Oxford public schoolboys, who must live in fear of their mails from a decade ago coming to light. The place is no stranger to scandal; they’ll probably promote him.

  • Anon. says:

    From what I hear, it won’t be the last to come out about Mr Hancock.

  • The website for the Guardians program set up by The Old Vic is here:


    There is currently a lot of activity in Germany, especially in the conservatories, to establish similar professional guidelines.

    I think there might be some missing context and salient details in the Glyndebourne incident.

    • V. Lind says:

      I agree. I would like to know the source of the blogger’s information on an issue Glyndebourne is rather vague about. I would hate to think, as has been posited below, that a young man’s career was destroyed over a text. however misconceived it might have been. Unless there is more, surely a proper reprimand, and an apology, could have worked? Or a suspension? This seems a lot like disproportionate response, unless the text was threatening someone’s life or predicating an act of terrorism.

      I am utterly opposed to abuse of power and inappropriate sexual conduct, but there is such a thing as making a mistake of judgment. I do not equate mistakes, especially in isolation — a point Glyndebourne IS at pains to make — with crimes, or even a pattern of abusive behaviour.

      • Anon says:

        I highly doubt that the reason for him being sacked was just over a text. This was probably the claim that tipped it over the edge and perhaps Glyndebourne are not allowed to give full details yet as the news is still so fresh.

  • Cantantelirico says:

    How odd. I thought they much more forgiving on the other side of the pond. Perhaps Placid Sunday can resume his duties. It is to laugh!!!

  • Henry Rosen says:

    Will be interesting to see what happens at Royal Academy, where Hancock is in charge of the Opéra School.

  • Maria says:

    Here we go again!

    • Larry D says:

      No, here THEY go again. The ones that certain commenters on this site jump precipitously in to defend. The world does not lack for conductors. Everyone can just move up one in the line. Perhaps the next one will not text himself in the foot, like a modern-day Lully.

  • Ellingtonia says:

    Has the world gone mad? A man is sacked for sending a text, presumably of a sexual connotation. Why didn’t the “offended” person give Hancock a ****ocking and tell him “don’t ****ing do it again”. But we live in an era of sensitive souls who are permanently offended by one thing or another. Time someone grew up!

    • Larry D says:

      Perhaps the text was about him WANTING a “****ocking”? What then? But you know much more about the incident and are so much more grownup than Glyndebourne, so I defer to your wisdom.

    • Andrew says:

      Because there may well be power dynamics at play. Conductors no doubt are higher up the hierarchy than singers starting out in their careers. Texts like this may well represent an abuse of that power.

    • Tester McTest says:

      You don’t know the content of the text and you already know how the recipient should have reacted? Good one Narcissus.

    • Anon says:

      It is clear on the grapevine that there have been numerous claims about this man, and I would not think that just a text would cause him to get the sack. The music business is full of stuff like that anyway so it would have to be much more serious in order for someone to get the sack for being inappropriate.

  • Theodore Weiss says:

    Dare one even breathe now? To sack and potentially ruin a promising young man’s career, because of a text, seems to be vindictive beyond reason.

  • Notker says:

    This “promising young man” is 53!

  • JR says:

    It’s interesting that so many commenters seem to believe it’s an overreaction—without knowing the context or the substance of the texts. Is bias showing?

  • Muso says:

    Ridiculous to start defending the “inappropriate behaviour” without knowing what it was. Glad that progressive companies like Glyndebourne are stopping the rot and calling time on misconduct in the workplace.

  • Finally says:

    This is not an isolated incident. This is merely the straw that broke the camel’s back.
    Gareth is a privileged, white, middle-aged man who has done nothing but abuse his many positions of power. There are multiple incidences [redacted].
    These have been reported to RAM from students, staff and alumni and have fallen on deaf ears. glyndebourne have been aware of his bad behaviour for a very long time, it has simply been hard to do anything about it as young women are often not taken seriously or choose not to report this behaviour as they are scared for their own livelihood.
    It has taken too long for this to happen and I am terrified that RAM will turn a blind eye to this. He seems to be protected by the extensive Cambridge Mafia that dominates this world, but I hope no longer.
    He is a nasty, crass man who has hidden behind a friendly, “laddy” persona. I hope his whole family can now see him for what he truly is; a predatory, weak, little man with no understanding of consequences. Hopefully he understands now.

    • Anon says:

      A shame, as his father was a very decent man and inspiring headmaster who helped many pupils achieve their potential. If course the musical Oxbridge mafia shall protect him!

    • Saxon Broken says:

      RAM will not be able to fire him for what happened at Glyndebourne.

    • Name not to be on record says:

      I’m sorry but ‘Cambridge Mafia’? What are you blathering about? Have you ever worked with him or are you just reacting to hearsay?

    • Sara says:

      Genuinely, I do not recognise the person you are describing. This is witchunting of the highest order – and his age, ethnicity and gender have nothing to do with it. Stop being so damn prejudiced and bitter and get a sense of perpective and humour.

  • Fighting this currently says:

    I am currently suing a fancy establishment for exactly this kind of behaviour. Its time all the “sweeping under the carpet” stopped and those thinking they can get away with their vile words and deeps be kicked into touch. It starts small, boundaries are continually moved and victims are too scared to say anything – well I don’t care I am standing up for students and staff and not being a victim any more. I really hope the RAM wake up and damn well do something positive instead of breeding and protecting these nasty people.

  • Purple Flower says:

    FYI he has been suspended from the RAM as of this afternoon. I’m also a member of staff there and we’ve just been notified .

    • Fighting this now says:

      Thank goodness for some real standing up to this. I hope the RAM lead by good example and no longer protect these people. Full stop.

      • TruthTalker says:

        You say the RAM as an entity, but we should now be focussing on people and the Principal in particular. The fact is he has repeatedly ignored complaints to protect himself and Gareth. Heads should roll and JFA should resign unquestionably.

  • L says:

    My experience of Gareth is of an essentially good, generous person, albeit an extremely foolish one. I think Gareth himself would agree that this punishment is justified and he has only himself to blame.
    However those commentators here who celebrate the downfall of a “nasty” “predator” are mistaken.
    He is not a Weinstein-like monster. I doubt even the victim would encourage some of this commentary.
    This is a painful time for all those directly involved, especially the victim and Gareth’s family.

    • M says:

      He is not Weinstein, that is for certain. He can, however, be predatory and he has been nasty. Perhaps not in the context of this specific instance but certainly in his dealings with some students at the RAM. Those cases, if they were to come to light, would sink not only his ship but the senior management of that institution as well. Which I guess is probably why they’ve been swept under the carpet for so long. I fully agree with you that it should only be the choice of the victims directly affected to make his misdemeanours public, they should not have their affairs aired publicly (albeit anonymously) if it’s not their choice. But rest assured, those of us on staff have looked on for some time with disgust. We are not surprised and we will not be rushing to his aid.

      • Help says:

        Why haven’t you done more to protect students? You’ve “looked on for some time with disgust”…but been silent in the process?

        • Name not to be on record says:

          Have you ever been involved in a safeguarding crisis? Nope, thought not. There are so many legal pitfalls that it’s next to impossible to speak out on behalf of a complainant. You can only tell them who to disclose to; you cannot take the disclosure yourself and then pass it along. If the chain of confidentiality is broken at any point, the whole case goes under and no action gets taken.

          • There's more than one way to skin a cat says:

            You can absolutely put pressure on the hierarchy to take the complaints seriously. You can strike. You can confront GH yourself. None of that goes against safeguarding procedures.

  • VB says:

    Funny how Glyndebourne is swift to deal with an issue like this, but has let its internal bullying culture linger on for years and years. Perhaps because it’s a top-down problem so who is going to deal with it? Maybe the new director of organisational development needs to take a more pragmatic approach? Glassdoor is full of negative reviews from employees citing the bullying culture and its well known in the industry that it exists at GB. Two of the directors in particular are well known bullies.

    • GB says:

      Agree, worked at GB 2016-18 and experienced bullying first hand on many occasions. Don’t be fooled by the customer friendly image they portray outwardly.

  • VB says:

    I’m assuming GB is a deliberate hint at who one of the bullies is. GB at GB. The Comms revolving door has been spinning for years.