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.

Sitting pretty: The idea that sent Cath Kidson from one shop to a global chain

Today, Cath Kidston's iconic floral prints and affordable household items, that lend more than a nod to the trend for vintage chic, appear in must-have lists and households across the world. Her empire spans 28 shops and concessions in the UK, two shops in the Republic of Ireland and five in Japan. The brand has beaten the odds in the economic downturn with profits rising in the past year from £2.9m to £4.6m. And with sales now reaching £31.3m, she clearly has a head for retail. These figures belie the brand's humble beginnings in a small shop in London's Holland Park.

Kat'a Kabanová, Opera Holland Park, London<br></br>BBC Proms PCM2, 15 &amp; 16, Cadogan Hall / Royal Albert Hall, London

A Jan&#225;cek opera is wonderfully sung, played and staged, Graham and Martineau get cheesy, and a 'Firebird' shows off its spectacular plummage

Un ballo in maschera, Opera Holland Park, London

The last thing you need is a voiceless tenor on opening night of Verdi's troubled political thriller Un Ballo in Maschera. The pivotal role of Gustavus III, assassinated at a masked ball in the Royal Opera House, Stockholm, in 1792, has been much beloved of big stars throughout its chequered history. Rafael Rojas is hardly that but David Rendall has been and together they rescued a near-disaster, Rendall singing from the pit, Rojas moving and mouthing furiously on stage.

Un ballo in maschera, Opera Holland Park, London<br/>Proms 5 &amp; 6, Royal Albert Hall, London<br/>Orpheus and Euridice, Blackheath Halls, London

A scandal rocks Washington in Verdi's drama of politics and betrayal - but one bold addition in Martin Lloyd-Evans's production doesn't smack of the truth

Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Opera Holland Park, London

The last thing you need is a voiceless tenor on opening night of Verdi’s troubled political thriller Un ballo in maschera.

La Boh&egrave;me, Opera Holland Park, London<br>Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings, Suffolk<br>A Midsummer Night's Dream, Britten Theatre, London

Opera Holland Park's passionate 'Boh&egrave;me' dares to be unsentimental, unfussy and sincere

H&#228;nsel and Gretel, Opera Holland Park, London

Here's a first. As the sweetly atmospheric prelude fades away, the stillness is rudely shattered by the abrasive wail of an air-raid siren sounding the all-clear. Two gas-masked faces peep around a gigantic door. It sits at the centre of sinister, charcoal-drawn walls depicting the forbidding forest beyond. We are in wartime, for sure, a time of fear and austerity and rationing, but whether in Germany or dear old Blighty (there are resonances of both and the sung language is German, of course) is pretty much irrelevant to Stephen Barlow's wittily effective staging. What matters to Hänsel and Gretel is that it's a strange world to be growing up in.

Roberto Devereux, Opera Holland Park, London

One by one, the country-house opera companies are laying out their wares, each with its unique selling point. For me, Opera Holland Park's USP is partly horticultural – the Kyoto Garden, so idyllic a piece of Japan that you can hardly believe you're in London – and partly anti-operatic, in that the open-air stage is invaded by a gentle cacophony of birds, dogs, children, aeroplanes, and traffic sounds. But the company's raison d'être lies in adventurous programming, coupled with an ability to pull in some outstanding voices – and on both counts the opening show scored high.

First among unequals: Meet the most powerful person in Britain

A year ago, Mr Mandelson was all washed-up. Now, he's the First Secretary, and holds the key to No 10 and, guess what, Peter has acquired a lot of new friends

H&#228;nsel und Gretel, Holland Park, London<br>Eliogabalo, Grange Park, Hampshire<br>Roberto Devereux, Holland Park, London

Packing the kids off to the woods for berries makes sense in Holland Park's wartime opera fairytale

Opera podcast - Peacocks and prima donnas

Michael Volpe - General Manager of Opera Holland Park - reminisces with Edward Seckerson about his 20 years of bringing grand opera to W8.

Michael McCarthy: The grass is greener on the other side

Nature Notebook: Great Nature is still visible in view of the heartless towers if you look hard enough

Dick Gilbert: Painter inspired by the landscape and coastline of Cornwall

The painter Dick Gilbert belonged to a coterie of Cornish-born and -bred artists who proved a visually distinctive minority within the mid-century St Ives "school". These included Peter Lanyon, Michael Canney, Margo Maeckelberghe, the potter William Marshall and before them the naive painters Alfred Wallis and Mary Jewels. Though the irresistible Cornish landscape and haunting genius loci provided overriding source material for virtually all Cornish modern artists it is not easy to identify a single or coherent stylistic complexion unique to this native enclave other than an emotional and frequently expressive semi-abstract landscape painting and an improvisatory or makeshift approach to the materials closest to hand.

Average home price falls &pound;100 a day

The average UK home is losing value at a rate of £100 per day and more than £1 trillion has been wiped off the housing market in the past year, a survey has revealed.

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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
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Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

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Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone