Royal Opera House loses appeal over viola player's hearing

Chris Goldscheider

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Christopher Goldscheider joined the viola section of the ROH orchestra in 2002

The Royal Opera House has lost its appeal over the life-changing hearing damage caused to a viola player at a rehearsal of Wagner’s Die Walkure.

The Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that the ROH failed to take reasonable steps to protect Christopher Goldscheider during the 2012 rehearsal.

It also failed to act on dangerous noise levels until after Mr Goldscheider’s injury, the court ruled.

He won a landmark High Court case last year, which was challenged by the ROH.

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Mr Goldscheider said he hoped the Court of Appeal guidance will help others

In that case, Mr Goldscheider sued the opera house, claiming damages for acoustic shock – a condition with symptoms including tinnitus, hyperacusis and dizziness.

In its appeal, the ROH claimed the artistic value of the music produced by the orchestra meant that some hearing damage to its players was inevitable and justifiable – but that was rejected by the court.

‘Rebuilding my life’

On 1 September 2012, Mr Goldscheider was seated directly in front of the brass section of the orchestra for a rehearsal of Wagner’s thunderous opera Die Walkure in the famous orchestra pit at the Royal Opera House.

During that rehearsal, the noise levels exceeded 130 decibels, roughly equivalent to that of a jet engine. His hearing was irreversibly damaged.

Speaking after Wednesday’s Court of Appeal decision, Mr Goldscheider said: “I am grateful to the court for acknowledging that more should have been done to protect me and other musicians from the risk of permanent and life changing hearing problems.

“We all want to find a way to participate and share in the experience of live music in a safe and accessible way and I hope that the guidance which the Court of Appeal has given in my case will help others. I hope that the Royal Opera House will now support me to get on with rebuilding my life.”

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