Jacket required: Vittorio Grigolo is a favourite at the Royal Opera House

Vittorio Grigolo: Romantic hero who's proud to be a popera star

The Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo loves to mix up his music

Champion of the Baroque: Sir Colin Davis speaks out

Celebrating his 85th birthday later this year, Sir Colin Davis has been one of Britain's best-loved conductors for more than half a century. The death of his wife, Shamsi, in June 2010, was a severe blow to him; since then, his activities have slowed. "I don't have the energy I used to," he remarks. "After performing a big piece, one feels one should be put out to grass, like an old donkey."

Schubert - A gloriously unfinished celebration

BBC Radio 3 is devoting an entire week to Schubert. He's just the composer for these tough times, says Jessica Duchen

Women in operas can't resist a rake

Things do not look good for Anne Truelove. "No word from Tom," she sings, while her beloved vanishes to London, led astray by the sinister Nick Shadow. That is just the start of her problems. Stravinsky's neoclassical masterpiece, The Rake's Progress, concludes with a heartbreaking scene in which Anne sings her Tom a lullaby as he dies by inches in the lunatic asylum of Bedlam.

Women can't resist a rake

Things do not look good for Anne Truelove. "No word from Tom," she sings, while her beloved vanishes to London, led astray by the sinister Nick Shadow. That is just the start of her problems. Stravinsky's neoclassical masterpiece, The Rake's Progress, concludes with a heartbreaking scene in which Anne sings her Tom a lullaby as he dies by inches in the lunatic asylum of Bedlam.

'We have the best opportunity on Earth to put culture and art at the heart of the games,' says Tony Hall

Tony Hall: The man with a front row seat in our arts establishment

From the Royal Opera House to C4 and the Cultural Olympiad, Tony Hall discusses his rewarding roles with Ian Burrell

The wheel of fortune turns for new opera

The ROH's latest 'everyday' tale revolves around a lottery, its star and composer tell Jessica Duchen

Rutter says: 'I probably don't listen to as much opera as people expect me to in my free time. Sometimes, I need to switch off from work.'

Cultural Life: Claire Rutter, soprano

Theatre: I went to see the ENO's 'Tales of Hoffmann'. There's some great singing from everyone. The production was very entertaining and a bit wacky in places, which appeals to me. It's quite a long opera, but Richard Jones's production didn't feel like it. I sat in the dress circle for the very first time – I usually sit in the stalls – and enjoyed champagne in the intervals. I think this production would also appeal to newcomers to opera. It was a worthwhile night out, and nice to be on the other side of the curtain.

Dvorak's dark side set to light up the stage

I'm all for cats at the opera – a fuzzy feline will always raise a smile. But isn't there something alarming about it when a mermaid meets one? We all know what cats do to fish. It looks as if that might happen to the unfortunate Rusalka, the eponymous heroine of Dvorak's post-Wagnerian take on The Little Mermaid, in the opera's first-ever production at the Royal Opera House.

Oar struck: an artist's impression of royal row barge 'Gloriana' which will take part in the Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames

Music to snooze by for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee

The plans for the river pageant are an embarrassment

The Tales of Hoffmann is fantasy stuff

The German author E T A Hoffmann's imagination underpins some of the world's most popular and enduring operas, ballets, and even piano music. Yet few of the adaptations bear much resemblance to his originals. Indeed, the writer's absence from his own legacy is so striking that Richard Jones, the director of English National Opera's new production of The Tales of Hoffmann, has apparently recommended to his lead tenor, Barry Banks, that he need not read the tales by Hoffmann on which the opera is based.

The Italian cruise ship 'Achille Lauro'

Fear and loathing in London: The Death of Klinghoffer is staged in the capital for the first time

It's a major risk for English National Opera, says Jessica Duchen.

Sir Tom Allen is still fresh, four decades on

Where to begin with the achievements of Sir Tom Allen? As Britain's best-loved opera singer, and as the real-life inspiration for Billy Elliot – hailing from a mining family up north, with no expectations of stardom – he embodies the sort of story dreams are made of. He has created a parallel career as a director, and has just been appointed Chancellor of Durham University, but tonight will see a different culmination: when he walks on stage at Covent Garden in London as Don Alfonso in Jonathan Miller's wickedly knowing Cosi fan tutte, it will mark the 40th anniversary of his first appearance there.

'Goodbye Mr Muffin' shows at Death: Southbank Centre's Festival for the Living

Music gets macabre at Death: Southbank Centre's Festival for the Living

Most people are familiar with Desert Island Discs, the Radio 4 show that invites a guest to choose the eight records they would take with them to a desert island. Death: Southbank Centre's Festival for the Living, which begins today in London, puts a whole new spin on the concept. Desert Island Death Discs with Paul Gambaccini will reveal the nation's top funeral music choices, while the BBC Concert Orchestra will explore Music to Die For, a collection of works by composers obsessed by death.

How Debussy keys into Japan

In 1862 Claude Debussy was born in Paris: the biggest musical celebrations of 2012 will mark his 150th anniversary. Reflections on Debussy, a major new festival based at Manchester's Bridgewater Hall, promises to be one of the most unusual takes on this seminal French composer and his legacy. It unites past and present, Europe and Asia, and a pianist and orchestra who, having been caught up in Japan's devastating earthquake, are lucky to be here.

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