News Arms deals fixer Ziad Takieddine has been refused entry to Britain

A controversial fixer for arms deals linked to an alleged corruption scandal that engulfed Nicolas Sarkozy has been refused entry to Britain.

Spot on: Cath Kidston sales polka past £100m for the first time

The thirst for polka dots and floral prints has pushed sales at “yummy mummy” accessories and homewares chain Cath Kidston past the £100 million mark for the first time, the firm said today.

Lady madonna: Natalya Romaniw stars in I gioielli della Madonna

Classical review: I gioielli della Madonna - Incest and insanity... what an Italian job!

The first British staging since 1926 of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari's mafiosi opera takes the crown for lurid incident and spectacle

Opera Holland Park - I gioielli della Madonna dir Martin Lloyd-Evans

Classical review: I gioielli della Madonna, Opera Holland Park, London

The action is grittier, the stakes (and skirts) raised higher, and the orchestral noises louder than anything else of its time: if Puccini’s realist operas are verismo then Wolf-Ferrari’s 1911 I gioielli della Madonna is verissimo.

Classical review: Les pecheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers), Holland Park Opera, London

Powered by some of the lushest arias and duets in the canon, Bizet’s pearl-fishers have become synonymous with Oriental chic. But one could argue – as Penny Woolcock did in her 2010 production for ENO – that this opera’s ‘savage’ backdrop has more relevance today than it did in 1863.

Video: The best outdoor cultural events

Watch the videos below for a taster of some of the outdoor events taking place this summer:

New house price figures show London continues to be a driving force

Annual house price increases in England were driven by a 7.6% rise in London and a 3.3% increase in the South East

House prices up 1.3%, says Halifax

Significant regional differences around the UK still apparent

All ears: Michael Volpe’s daughter, Fiora

The birth of a new opera: Children know the score when it comes to songs

In his latest dispatch, Michael Volpe reveals how music is crucial to Alice

The 9-bedroom mansion in London’s sought-after Holland Park area

Hard-up Greece sells house in London for £23.3m

Greece has sold the luxurious British home of its former consul for £23.3m in a bid to reduce its mountain of public debt.

Amanda Echalaz (right) and Kristine Opolais (left) take on the role of Tosca in turn at the Royal Opera House

Highly strung sopranos reach diva pitch

Do you have to be a diva to take on Tosca?

The Holland Park house

Calm down, dear. It's only a £60m mansion

At least, that's what Michael Winner hoped it would be worth. That now looks unlikely

Opera Holland Park, London.

Michael Volpe: ‘I want us to put on an opera – and in we plunge’

The first of a monthly report from Michael Volpe on the trials of staging a show

Why this dated duo are out of the running

Ab Fab is back (again) for an Olympic special but Twenty Twelve is the real comedy winner, says Gerard Gilbert
On the wrong track

Absolutely Fabulous: Why this dated duo are out of the running

Ab Fab's Olympics special trails behind Twenty Twelve

Not always great outdoors: Opera Holland Park

Walk on the wild side

Stag beetles, bats and rainy days are among the many hazards of outdoor performances, says Michael Volpe, of Opera Holland Park

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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Lisbon, Oporto and the Douro Valley
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona
Spain
Prices correct as of 30 January 2015
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee