The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s ruling that the Covent Garden venue had failed to take reasonable steps to protect 45-year-old Christopher Goldscheider (pictured) during a practice session in 2012
The Royal Opera House has lost an appeal over a £750,000 compensation payout to a viola player who suffered life-changing hearing damage at a rehearsal of Wagner’s Die Walkure (The Ring).
The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s ruling that the Covent Garden venue had failed to take reasonable steps to protect 45-year-old Christopher Goldscheider during a practice session in 2012.
In the landmark case, which could have repercussions for orchestras nationwide, Mr Goldscheider said he suffered ‘acoustic shock’ and became unwell after sitting in front of an 18-strong brass section.
Speaking after today’s Court of Appeal decision, Mr Goldscheider told
‘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.’
Mr Goldscheider (middle) suffered acoustic shock that left him unable to play or listen to music
Before the incident Mr Goldscheider’s career included performing with the Three Tenors in front of 100,000 people in Barcelona as well as joining Kylie Minogue on stage.
His counsel, Theo Huckle QC, told the earlier High Court hearing that the effects of the injury – including hypersensitivity to noise – had ‘seriously diminished his life in all significant respects’.
Mr Goldscheider, he added, was exposed to an average noise level of 91 decibels over a three-hour period and, despite him wearing ear plugs, was at a ‘substantial risk of injury’.
The Foundation, which runs the venue, contended that his condition was not caused by playing in the orchestra.
David Platt QC said Mr Goldscheider had been provided with ear protection and the opera house had gone ‘as far and, if anything, further than the reasonable employer’ to reduce noise levels.
The judge said that the Foundation was in breach of a number of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005.
‘In my view there is a clear factual and causal link between the identified breaches of the Regulations and the high level of noise which ensued at the rehearsal,’ she said.
‘It commenced with an inadequate risk assessment, continued with a failure to undertake any monitoring of noise levels in the cramped orchestra pit with a new orchestral configuration which had been chosen for artistic reasons.
‘Even when complaints were raised, the three-hour afternoon rehearsal was commenced and completed in the absence of any live time noise monitoring.’
Had the Foundation complied with its statutory duty, Mr Goldscheider would not have been exposed to the level of noise which he was, she added.
The Foundation, which runs the Royal Opera House, (pictured) contended that his condition was not caused by playing in the orchestra
She was satisfied that the noise levels at the rehearsal were within the range identified as causing acoustic shock.
‘The index exposure was the playing of the principal trumpet in the right ear of the claimant whether it was one sound or a cluster of sounds of short duration,’ she said.
‘It was that exposure which resulted in the claimant sustaining acoustic shock which led to the injury which he sustained and the symptoms which have developed, from which he continues to suffer.’