U.S. Visa Rules Deprive Stages of Performers

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John F
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U.S. Visa Rules Deprive Stages of Performers

Post by John F » Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:21 am

Institutionalized paranoia.


U.S. Visa Rules Deprive Stages of Performers
By LARRY ROHTER
Published: April 11, 2012

Everything seemed set for the American debut last month of Pitingo, the rising young flamenco singing star: the Grand Ballroom at Manhattan Center had been booked, tickets and program prepared, a publicity budget spent, nonrefundable airline tickets purchased. But when he went to the United States Embassy in Madrid to pick up his visa, he learned that his name was on the “no fly” list.

Embassy officials knew that Pitingo, whose real name is Antonio Manuel Álvarez Vélez, is not a terrorist, and that the real target was someone else who shared his very common name. But procedures are procedures, and by the time the confusion was sorted out it was too late for Pitingo to fly to New York, and his concert had to be canceled. His management and the concert promoters incurred losses of nearly $25,000.

The case of Mr. Álvarez is not an isolated one. In the decade since the attacks on the twin towers, American visa procedures for foreign artists and performers have grown increasingly labyrinthine, expensive and arbitrary, arts presenters and immigration lawyers say, making the system a serious impediment to cultural exchanges with the rest of the world.

Some foreign performers and ensembles, like the Hallé orchestra from Britain, have decided that it is no longer worth their while to play in the United States. Others have been turned down flat, including a pair of bands invited to perform at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Tex., last month, or have ended up canceling performances because of processing delays, as was the case last month with the Tantehorse theater troupe from the Czech Republic, which was booked to perform in suburban Washington.

Overall, according to Homeland Security Department records, requests for the standard foreign performer’s visa declined by almost 25 percent between 2006 and 2010, the most recent fiscal year for which statistics are available. During the same period the number of these visa petitions rejected, though small in absolute numbers, rose by more than two-thirds.

“Everything is much more difficult,” said Palma R. Yanni, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association who also handles artists’ visas. “I didn’t think it could get worse than it was after 9/11, but the last couple of years have been terrible. It just seems like you have to fight for everything across the board, even for artists of renown. The standards have not changed, but the agency just keeps narrowing the criteria, raising the bar without notice or comment, reinterpreting things and just making everything more restrictive. We call it the culture of no.”..

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/11/arts/ ... rmers.html
John Francis

nut-job
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Re: U.S. Visa Rules Deprive Stages of Performers

Post by nut-job » Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:16 am

It works both ways. I remember reading an article in the Times describing problems for performers getting into the UK. The Carpe Diem quartet was was traveling to the UK to play music by Taneyev at a chamber music festival. The cellist was stopped at passport control and denied entry because the organizers of the festival had not demonstrated that there wasn't a British cellist available who could play the same music.

John F
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Re: U.S. Visa Rules Deprive Stages of Performers

Post by John F » Wed Apr 11, 2012 12:26 pm

I've found that story online:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/tomserv ... ency-rules

http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/enterta ... to_uk.html

String quartets and orchestras travel to the UK and perform there all the time. I have to wonder whether the fault didn't lie with the British presenters - the University of Leeds - for not making sure that the ensemble they invited knew what kind of visa to get, and had gotten it.
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Re: U.S. Visa Rules Deprive Stages of Performers

Post by lennygoran » Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:12 am

John F wrote: for not making sure that the ensemble they invited knew what kind of visa to get, and had gotten it.
This made me think of the Godunov/Stein issue at the Met:

Director Says He Left Met Production in Visa Spat

"Now those reasons have become clear. Mr. Stein said he had pulled out because he felt offended by his treatment at the United States Consulate in Berlin when he applied for a work visa and by a lack of sympathy from Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, over confrontations with bureaucracy.

“I told Gelb from the beginning, ‘Don’t create a situation where I don’t feel well,’ ” Mr. Stein, 72, said Friday in a telephone interview from Berlin. “I’m old. When I work, I must have the feeling that I’m wanted, that I’m there, that I’ve helped. If this is not the case, I cannot work anymore. It’s not possible.”

Mr. Gelb said on Friday that he was disappointed by Mr. Stein’s decision, calling him “one of the most talented directors of his generation.” He said the Met “tried to do everything possible to make him feel comfortable and to accommodate his artistic wishes.” That included hiring the designers of Mr. Stein’s choice and granting extra weeks of rehearsal.

“On every possible point we met his artistic needs and requirements and were prepared to support him completely, up and through the opening night,” Mr. Gelb said. “But sometimes not every good turn works out.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/04/arts/ ... nted=print

Regards, Len

John F
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Re: U.S. Visa Rules Deprive Stages of Performers

Post by John F » Thu Apr 12, 2012 11:35 am

Stein wasn't denied a visa nor would he have been, as far as we know, so his case is irrelevant to the topic. He seems to have been whining about not getting special treatment at the consulate and therefore somehow not feeling "wanted." Whether the Met could have taken care of some of this for him, hasn't been explained, but the Met has "imported" hundreds of foreign performers (including René Pape for the "Boris Godunov" Stein was to have directed), and presumably knows the ropes.
John Francis

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Re: U.S. Visa Rules Deprive Stages of Performers

Post by nut-job » Thu Apr 12, 2012 1:15 pm

John F wrote:I've found that story online:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/tomserv ... ency-rules

http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/enterta ... to_uk.html

String quartets and orchestras travel to the UK and perform there all the time. I have to wonder whether the fault didn't lie with the British presenters - the University of Leeds - for not making sure that the ensemble they invited knew what kind of visa to get, and had gotten it.
The NY Times article is a lot more comprehensive.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/20/arts/ ... ing&st=cse

In theory Ostling should have applied for a visa which would have required her to surrender her passport for a period of weeks and cost hundreds of pounds both to her and to the university that was hosting the conference. However, Ostling was told that she would only be eligible for the visa after the University proved that there was no cellist anywhere in England willing to play the same piece of music for free. The problem is that the rules are unreasonably strict and inconsistently enforced. Among other things, the article mentions performances at the National Opera that could not go on because the conductor's request for a visa was denied.

lennygoran
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Re: U.S. Visa Rules Deprive Stages of Performers

Post by lennygoran » Fri Apr 13, 2012 4:37 am

John F wrote:Stein wasn't denied a visa nor would he have been, as far as we know, so his case is irrelevant to the topic. He seems to have been whining about not getting special treatment at the consulate and therefore somehow not feeling "wanted." Whether the Met could have taken care of some of this for him, hasn't been explained, but the Met has "imported" hundreds of foreign performers (including René Pape for the "Boris Godunov" Stein was to have directed), and presumably knows the ropes.
Well your article mentioned "But procedures are procedures," and I guess Stein didn't like those he encountered so that's why I thought it had some relevance--okay maybe it's just an aside! :) --anyway I think Gelb handled it correctly and if that production was pretty much what Stein wanted I wasn't that impressed--it was an okay production but nothing I'd go crazy over. Regards, Len

John F
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Re: U.S. Visa Rules Deprive Stages of Performers

Post by John F » Fri Apr 13, 2012 8:23 am

A procedure that actually denies entry into the country is one thing. A procedure that a would-be traveler finds annoying and decides not to bother with is an entirely different thing. That's not an aside, it's a distraction. :mrgreen:

We don't know what Peter Stein's "Boris Godunov" would have been like. We know what it looked like, as the sets and costumes had already been made before he withdrew; but the director who saved the production, Stephen Wadsworth, is a very different artist from Peter Stein. Wadsworth is an excellent stage director, I'm looking forward to his "Don Giovanni" at Juilliard, but lacking any control over the design of "Boris," it wasn't really his production any more than Stein's. The best that can be said is that the show went on.
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lennygoran
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Re: U.S. Visa Rules Deprive Stages of Performers

Post by lennygoran » Fri Apr 13, 2012 8:27 am

John F wrote: We don't know what Peter Stein's "Boris Godunov" would have been like. We know what it looked like, as the sets and costumes had already been made before he withdrew;
The costumes were certainly up to par but the sets--some good, some I really didn't need. But I'm glad the show at least went on. Regards, Len

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