While visa issues derail Siberian orchestra, Forbes Center moves ahead with international acts

By Kyle Kirby, contributor

The Forbes Center for the Performing Arts was set to host an internationally-known orchestra earlier this month, but was forced to cancel because of complications with the orchestra’s entry into the United States. 

The Siberian State Symphony Orchestra has performed across Russia, Europe, and Latin America. This year they had planned to do their first tour of the United States — including the Feb. 8 performance in Harrisonburg — but didn’t get their visas approved to enter the country. 

The orchestra needed either an O-1 or P-3 visa, said Matthew Bourke of the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’s media affairs division. The O-1 visa is for individuals with extraordinary achievements or talents, while the P-3 visa is for an artist or entertainer who is part of a culturally unique program. Bourke said those visas can be approved as quickly as within one-and-a-half months, but approval could take as long as five-and-a-half months. 

Bourke declined to comment on the specifics of this particular case but said between July 2018 and June 2019, “over 90% of the O/P petitions were approved.” 

The Forbes Center guaranteed full refunds for ticket holders. Regan Byrne, executive director of the Forbes Center said that a cancellation like this one has never happened during her time at the Center.

Byrne stated that this will not affect how bookings are handled on her end, and that this type of issue goes through the booking agency. She also stated that their audiences have already enjoyed many international acts, and that there will be more to come. 

“Next season we have also booked a number of international artists and are looking forward to our 2020-2021 Season,” she said. 

On Tuesday, for instance, the Bel Canto Trio performed as part of the Forbes Center’s Masterpiece Season. The concert featured some of the world’s up-and-coming opera stars. 

Next week, on Feb. 25, the Forbes Center will host classical guitarist Miloš Karadaglić, whom a New York Times music reviewer described as “a charismatic, sensitive player, adept at offsetting fiery, visceral passages with thoughtful if by no means subdued ones.” He will be performing with the 12 Ensemble, an unconducted string orchestra from London. 

The following Tuesday, March 3, will feature a theatrical performance from Swiss theater group MUMMENSCHANZ. According to the Forbes Center website, MUMMENSCHANZ “utilizes light and shadow to generate awe-inspiring optical illusions.”


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