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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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform