Famous Old Woolverstonians!

Michael Volpe is General Director of Opera Holland Park in London, which he was instrumental in founding in 1996. James Clutton came on board as Director of Opera in 2000, and since then both have been at the heart of this amazing story, which led in 2010 to "The Sunday Times" naming OHP as "Best Opera Company in the UK" after a series of critically-acclaimed seasons.

From humble beginnings described in his book "Noisy at the Wrong Times", Michael Volpe has with his team created a jewel of cultural excellence in London; and one that is anything but elitist, with a special project to bring opera to children and teenagers. His book also contains a moving personal account of his secondary education at Woolverstone Hall School in Suffolk.

"Noisy at the Wrong Times": Against a backdrop of nuns, hit men, gangsters, rugby and ice-cream, "Noisy at the Wrong Times" is an inspiring memoir by Michael Volpe, General Manager and founder of Opera Holland Park, now one of the UK’s finest and most popular opera festivals.

Volpe’s upbringing in a fatherless Italian family in London is hardly recognised as being one from which champions of the high, classical arts emerge, but at the heart of this story is his time at Woolverstone Hall, a prestigious state boarding school that took bright inner city boys and gave them an Eton-style education - with culture at the heart of the curriculum. Volpe's sudden immersion in a world of rules, traditions and high expectation produced some surprising – and not so surprising – results. With brutal honesty, "Noisy at the Wrong Times" charts Volpe’s torrid path through this extraordinary school; his countless misdemeanours, the tragedies he experienced, his often shameful behaviour and his endless conflicts - both emotional and physical – with authority. "Noisy at the Wrong Times" is a lesson for modern educationalists at a time when inner-city children from poor backgrounds are often written off even before they begin, when cultural education is diminishing and aspirational leadership of young people is little more than a platitude. With wit, candour and a jaunty spring in his narrative step, Michael Volpe's vivid memoir shows just how much a good school with dedicated teachers can broaden the most recalcitrant child's horizons and transform his or her life.' Anthony Holden, author and biographer

'Volpe has introduced tens of thousands of Londoners to some of the most extreme stories in Italian opera, featuring families at war, lust, obsession and violence. Now he tells a true story that's just as gripping – with a little less violence but boasting a much more honest and engaging hero than opera can normally muster. A redemption journey without an ounce of smug, "Noisy" should be shouted about.' Neil Fisher, Deputy Arts Editor, The Times

article: "How my state boarding-school saved me."