Apparently, playing viola in front of the brass section is like standing on the pilot of a locomotive.  "In the first case of its kind, viola player Christopher Goldscheider claimed he suffered hearing loss while playing at the Royal Opera House in 2012."  A judge agreed.

Do not perform without proper protective gear.
"[The ruling] effectively says an orchestral workspace is no different from a factory," said Mark Pemberton, director of the Association of British Orchestras.

"What it says is that musicians will need to be wearing their hearing protection at all times."

It has hammered the square peg of these regulations into the round hole of the beautiful music that orchestras and opera companies produce on a daily basis."
That prompts Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen to ask, "What or how much are we willing to sacrifice to continue to promote some of mankind’s greatest creative achievements, namely classical music?"
[The violist's] hearing was irreversibly damaged, despite wearing ear plugs.

At the High Court on Wednesday, Mrs Justice Nicola Davies ruled in Goldscheider's favour saying there was "a clear factual and causal link" between the noise levels and the musician's hearing loss.

She noted that the Control of Noise at Work Regulations "recognise no distinction as between a factory and an opera house".

If the Royal Opera House had "complied with its statutory duty the claimant would not have been exposed to the level of noise which he was," she concluded.
That ruling presumably generalises to other performances.

The Ring tetralogy is already difficult to play, and perhaps the traditional orchestra pit is too much of an echo chamber.
The Noise at Work Regulations came into force in 2006, with a two-year delay for the music and entertainment industries, allowing them time to draw up specific guidelines for live music.

Introducing those guidelines, the Health and Safety Executive said "the loudest pieces may be played less often" - making specific reference to Wagner's thunderous operatic works.

"The Royal Opera House for example will still do the Ring Cycle, but schedule the performances to allow the musicians recovery time in what is anyway a physically demanding work," it said in a "myth-buster" document published in 2007.

The guide offered suggestions regarding "orchestra layouts and elevating the brass so that they can be heard without having to play through five rows of fellow musicians".

Goldscheider's solicitor Chris Fry told the court that, despite that, his client had been positioned directly in front of the 18-strong brass section in the Royal Opera House's "cramped" orchestra pit.

The viola player, who says he has been forced to give up playing or even listening to music, is claiming £750,000 in lost earnings.
Yes, there's no reason the brass players should be heard but not seen. That noted, the strings up front (the traditional orchestra layout reflecting the relative strengths of the sounds produced) are still in the position of a railroadman on the front pilot. The railroader is relatively lower than the locomotive's horns, and still wearing ear protection.

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