Lucy Thraves


Royal Opera House loses appeal over viola player’s hearing damage

8:34, 18th April 2019

The Royal Opera House has lost its challenge to a ruling in the case of a viola player who suffered ‘acoustic shock’ from noise levels in the orchestra pit.

45-year-old Christopher Goldscheider now feels pain and nausea when there is noise and has had to move to the country to avoid triggers. He is no longer able to play in an orchestra and cannot look for alternative work.

The musician won his case a year ago but the ROH, with support from the Association of British Orchestras (ABO), the Society of London Theatre and the UK Theatre Association, appealed the ruling, claiming that it failed to distinguish between the industrial noise of a factory and ‘one of the greatest artistic institutions in the world, for whom “noise” was a product’.

The judges did back the ROH in its contention that the wearing of hearing protection at all times was not practicable.

Director of the ABO Mark Pemberton pointed out that, whilst the Court of Appeal did not overturn its original decision, it ‘upheld it on narrower grounds’, and ‘has overturned one aspect of the original judgement in relation to mandatory hearing protection: “We accept the ROH’s case that it was not reasonably practicable for players in their orchestra pit to perform if they were to be required to wear [hearing protection] at all times.”’

Chief executive of the ROH Alex Beard agreed: ‘The original high court ruling, which stipulated that hearing protection must be worn by orchestral musicians at all time, was widely acknowledged by the live-music and theatre industries as completely impractical, with potentially devastating and far-reaching consequences for the entire sector, and we are pleased that this unworkable solution has been overturned.’

Damages have yet to be assessed.

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