A hearing-loss lawsuit raises questions about orchestras’ duty to protect musicians
In 2017 Chris Goldscheider, a former violist at the Royal Opera House (ROH) in London, brought a suit against his employer, claiming that the permanent hearing damage he had suffered was directly caused by two rehearsals for Wagner’s “Die Walküre” in 2012.
There is no reason to doubt Mr Goldscheider’s claim that the noise around him reached 137 decibels. Research by Sound Advice, a British working group advising the entertainment industry, found that solo trumpet playing averages around 98 decibels and peaks at 113, from three metres away.
For reference, the pain threshold is 125 decibels and rock concerts peak at around 150. In an opera pit, space is tight, the roof is low and when a Wagner opera finally gets up to something, the whole street knows it.
The judge, Justice Nicola Davies, found and supported Mr Goldscheider’s claim on the grounds that the law made “no distinction…between a factory and an opera house”.
Chris Goldscheider won the case and the Royal Opera House even lost a Court of Appeal challenge after previously being sued for £750,000 for breaching noise at work regulations.