London’s biggest opera fan steps down

London’s biggest opera fan steps down


norman lebrecht

January 13, 2020

The irrepressible Michael Volpe has announced he will retire at the end of this summer from running Holland Park Opera, the self-fuelled Kensington company that has put hard-core Italian verismo back on the British menu and given many UK singers an early career boost.

Mike, 54, has worked for the enterprise for more than 30 years, starting when it was operated by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. He recast it as Opera Holland Park in 1996 and in 2015 helped enable the company to become an independent charity.

He will be succeeded by James Clutton, his sidekick fo the past 20 years.



  • Simon Funnell says:

    It’s a bit patronising to James Clutton to describe him as a “side-kick”. Clutton has been an integral part of the success of OHP as producer of countless productions, being responsible for casting and many other things.

    But it’s great news that James is taking over the reins. There isn’t anyone who could do the job better.

  • Sharon says:

    Is Michael Volpe the son of John Volpe who was the director of the Met Opera for so many years?

    Volpe is not a common name, even among people of Italian extraction, and I know that John Volpe had 8 kids.

    Michael would be about the right age to be one of John Volpe’s kids since I know from John Volpe’s memoirs that he started having kids in his mid twenties

    • Michael Volpe says:

      Hi Sharon
      An arm of the Volpe family went to New York in the 20’s from my family’s village. A few years back I enquired of Jo Volpe’s PA if he knew the village from whence his family in Italy emerged and she asked him – but I think he thought I was some sort of crank and never replied! So it is entirely possible we are related but I have no way of being sure.

    • Colin says:

      According to the attached info, Michael Volpe was brought up on a Fulham council estate, and his father left the family when he (Michael) was seven months old. This does not correspond with Joseph (not John) Volpe’s profile.

      • Michael Volpe says:

        Indeed – but y parents were immigrants and almost. My entire extended family is still in southern Italy. As I say above, my paternal Grandfather’s brother (my Great Uncle) went to NY in 1925 (among others who had gone before him) so lots of Volpes in NY (and Siracuse). So knowing where Joe’s family came from would be the only real way to know if there is a family connection.