Dame Kiri Te Kanawa warns of visa impact on international singers

22 September 2014, 14:55

Soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has warned of the restricting impact of visas for international singers hoping to work or study in the UK.

The New Zealand-born singer told The Observer that the current model for obtaining visas for work and study in the UK are weighted against new talent, comparing her own experiences with those of students and singers today.  

"When I came over there was an open door. But now a foreign singer can come into schools for a year or so, but then, more often than not, if they want to carry on they have to reapply."

"So what happens is they have to go back after their time runs out and sit there in New Zealand, for example, for almost a year. I talk to opera companies in London about it, and they don't like it when I say it. But these singers have got to get the visas or they will never learn."

Te Kanawa continued, saying that the solution was to remove hurdles from the visa process, and that not all international singers are likely to enjoy a long professional career: "The thing is, they are not all going to make it, so what I want is just one place a year for a person who is really going to last."

Fellow Kiwi soprano Madeleine Pierard is currently working at the Royal Opera House, and told Classic FM: "Because we don't tend to have long-term contracts it's very difficult to receive employer sponsorship or qualify under salary restrictions. I have lived in the UK since 2006 and every year since finishing at the Royal College of Music, I've had to fight for a visa to stay and work. I was more fortunate than most for some of that time."

She continued: "I do know a number of incredibly talented, world-class singers who have been forced to move back to New Zealand... and who therefore fall out of the loop and can't sustain the amount of work they need."