Mark Ronan
Latest Theatre Reviews

Double Bill: Il Segreto di Susanna/ Iolanta, Opera Holland Park, July 2019

August 2, 2019

Wolf-Ferrari’s delightful comedy, Il Segreto di Susanna under the baton of John Andrews formed a delightful prelude to Tchaikovsky’s final opera Iolanta, conducted by Sian Edwards. This was a revelation in Olivia Fuchs’ excellent production and Sian Edwards’ sensitive conducting that really drew forth the emotional pull of the music that Tchaikovsky created to embody the …

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Tannhäuser, Bayreuth Festival, July 2019

July 29, 2019

In Wagner’s Tannhäuser the representation of the Venusberg scene, compounded by its subsequent appeal within Tannhäuser’s mind, is a perennial problem. But in Tobias Kratzer’s new production the nineteenth century image of a den of debauchery is replaced by an exhilarating, wildly modern approach with four misfits: Venus, a dwarf, a black drag queen, and …

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Don Quichotte, Festival Theatre, Bregenz, July 2019

July 19, 2019

This production by Mariam Clément of Massenet’s final opera set all five acts differently, and the overall effect was tremendous. She deals with modern concerns about male role models and masculinity, and the overall effect at the end of a stage within a stage within a stage was hugely moving. Wonderful performances by Gábor Bretz …

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Rigoletto, Bregenz Festival Lake Stage, July 2019

July 19, 2019

This production by Philipp Stölzl boasted a superbly engineered set with a giant moving head, two hands, and a balloon that rose more than 30 metres into the air. Mechanically a great achievement, but the staging was too busy by half, with singers and acrobats appearing all over the place, including inside and on top …

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Latest Journalism

Eureka Moments in Syracuse

In a charming Sicilian museum you can test the theories of antiquity’s greatest mathematician. See my article in Standpoint magazine, July/ August 2019, p. 59

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Brotherly and sisterly love

André and Simone Weil were two sides of the same coin: impatient; determined; brilliant; attracted to ancient wisdom and ideas. Standpoint magazine, May 2019, pp. 61–2

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The English National Opera 2019/20 Season

The English National Opera needs to attract new audiences, so they must produce stagings that people want to see. Trying to be in the vanguard of bizarre reinterpretations won’t work, so what does the next season hold?

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Playing the numbers game

This review of David Spiegelhalter’s excellent new book The Art of Statistics shows that the methodology behind the numbers is hugely important, but the numbers themselves can still be misinterpreted. Standpoint magazine, April 2019, pp 61–2

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Brought to book

Some academic publishers abuse the system by producing fifth rate books with a good title and blurb, which American university libraries feel obliged to buy. Standpoint magazine, April 2019, p. 8.

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First woman to win the prestigious Abel mathematics prize

My ex-colleague Karen Uhlenbeck has just won the Abel Prize, mathematicians’ answer to the Nobel Prize, which has no category for mathematics. Bravo to her and to the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters for instituting this prize named after the brilliant young Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel. My summary in The Article.

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Civilisation made concrete

The great ‘Hanging Garden’ was built by the ancient Assyrians, who were pioneering builders and engineers, Standpoint magazine, February 2019, p.70.

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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