Mark Ronan
Latest Theatre Reviews

Macbeth, Grange Festival, June 2022

June 27, 2022

What a wonderful production, simple, bewitching and highly effective. The use of dancers helped the atmosphere (unlike their use in many productions), dark and menacing. Brilliantly conducted by young Italian conductor Francesco Cilluffo who gave this relatively early Verdi the energy it deserves. My review in The Article.

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Die Tote Stadt, Longborough, June 2022

June 26, 2022

In 1920, two years after the First World War, Europe was dealing with loss, and an ex-child prodigy, now 23, wrote an opera dealing with devastating loss. Unlike the novel Bruges-la-Morte on which it was based Die Tote Stadt has an ending that allows the protagonist the chance of recovery. This widower Paul lives in Bruges among the relics …

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Otello, Grange Park Opera, June 2022

June 21, 2022

In this David Alden production the opera’s title might almost be Iago, the name it was given in its early creation since there was already an Otello by Rossini. Simon Keenlyside’s Iago is very much the dark star, seen at the beginning of each act, half hidden by the curtain. At the end he sits in the …

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La Gioconda, Grange Park Opera, June 2022

June 18, 2022

Why don’t we see this opera more often? It’s remarkably well constructed by a composer, Ponchielli who taught Puccini and others, and its librettist Arrigo Boito created the librettos for the late masterpieces of Verdi. This production was terrific (apart from a terribly choreographed Dance of the Hours) and the casting wonderful — see my …

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La Bohème, Glyndebourne, June 2022

June 13, 2022

In this stripped-back production the usual three sets: the Bohemians’ garret (Acts 1 and 4), Café Momus (Act 2), and the border post (Act 3), have been combined into one. Sentimentality has been entirely stripped away, and Death is personified by a tall, gaunt man in a long coat. His riveting stage presence is obtrusive and detracts …

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The Excursions of Mr Brouček, Grange Park Opera, June 2022

June 12, 2022

Janáček pokes fun at philistines and anticipates Woke in this remarkable staging. Mr Brouček, a Czech Everyman, likes his beer, but his inebriation leads him on two imaginary excursions, one to the Moon among what we now call the Wokerati, and one to the early fifteenth century when Protestantism began in Prague. See my review …

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Latest Journalism

Reality check: mathematics is not racist

Engaging with students on the history of mathematics would do far more than pretending that the subject abounds with racism. My article in The Critic, 18 March 2021

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A new lease of life for Schrödinger’s Cat? Carlo Rovelli’s Helgoland

A review of Carlo Rovelli’s new book on quantum theory, dealing with the superposition of two states, and quantum entanglement. The Article, 4 March 2021.

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Just keep swimming

Those of us who partake in open air swimming should be allowed to return to this miraculous prophylactic, despite the semi-lockdown. The Critic, 12 November 2020.

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US Election History — a personal view

Recollections about elections from the post-Vietnam era when I first went to America, and their relevance today. The Article, 11 November 2020.

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The man behind the Monster

The man who first glimpsed the Monster has died. He came to this vision via very precise arguments, but later had to fight German students who wanted to cancel his branch of mathematics. We need his type again to fight the new battle against those who would turn mathematics from careful argument and precision to woolliness and confusion. The Critic 24 August 2020.

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Decolonise … maths?

If ‘decolonising maths’ means reassessing who did what, we need to put Greek geometry into perspective. Who invented algebra? And for modern arithmetic we have to thank the Sumerians, whose ethnicity and skin colour remains conveniently unknown. My article in The Critic, 7 July 2020

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Dark Matters

Academics in this country need to allow new ideas rather than orthodoxy and group-think. See my article in The Critic on 22 June 2020 about the dis-invitation of a physicist who was scheduled to give a technical talk.

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Feature

Symmetry and the Monster is the story of a mathematical quest that began two hundred years ago in revolutionary France, led to the biggest collaboration ever between mathematicians across the world, and revealed the ‘Monster’ – not monstrous at all, but a structure of exquisite beauty and complexity.

This book tells for the first time the fascinating story of the biggest theorem ever to have been proved. Mark Ronan graphically describes not only the last few decades of the chase, but also some of the more interesting byways, including my personal favourite, the one I called “Monstrous Moonshine”.

John H. Conway, von Neumann Chair of Mathematics, Princeton University


Opera on 3: for the BBC Radio 3 broadcast (on 19 November 2016) of Parsifal from this summer’s Bayreuth Festival, I was the guest with presenter Christopher Cook. We discussed the opera and its production, which I reviewed for the Daily Telegraph on 27 July 2016.


Truth and Beauty: The Hidden World of Symmetry

On the face of it, symmetry may seem simple, but diving beneath the surface reveals a whole new world. Over the last 100 years, the mathematical idea of symmetry has proved to be a guiding light for the world of physics. But what does a mathematician mean by symmetry? How does this link in with the world around us? And could it be the key to the mysterious ‘Theory of Everything’?

This was a BBC Radio programme on Symmetry in the Naked Scientists series. Here is the link