Mark Ronan
Latest Theatre Reviews

Jenufa, Grange Park Opera, Theatre in the Woods, GPO, June 2017

June 24, 2017

Czech verismo with attendant Central European melancholy, this carries quite a punch. There are four principal characters, Jenufa who is pregnant by Števa, her step-mother the Kostelnička (church sexton), and Števa’s half-brother Laca who adores Jenufa, but jealously cuts her face, disfiguring her. She adores Števa but he rejects her, and Laca is horrified by …

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Tosca, Grange Park Opera, Theatre in the Woods, GPO, June 2017

June 23, 2017

Grange Park Opera’s new theatre is a small miracle. Built in under a year, the acoustics of this mini La Scala with its four tiers of seats in a horseshoe-shaped auditorium, allowed conductor Gianluca Marcianò with the BBC Concert Orchestra to deliver a full-blooded account of Puccini’s masterpiece in the Surrey countryside. Full-bloodied too in …

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Otello, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, June 2017

June 22, 2017

Putting Shakespeare on stage demands theatricality, which Keith Warner’s new production delivers right at the start with Iago spotlighted on a dark stage, an image repeated at the start of Act III with Otello himself. The massive ship in Act I, and actors creating merry havoc in the fight that Iago provokes between Cassio and …

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Tosca, Nevill Holt Opera, NHO, June 2017

June 16, 2017

This year’s Tosca at Nevill Holt produced by Oliver Mears, an intelligent director who clearly cares about the music, augurs well for his new appointment as artistic director of the Royal Opera. The setting, the troubled Italy of the 1970s when anti-establishment forces such as the Red Brigades were causing havoc, developed from an original …

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Hamlet, Glyndebourne, GFO, June 2017

June 12, 2017

Wow! As a friend remarked at the interval, during this hugely theatrical performance, “we were on the edge of our seats”. How did Australian composer Brett Dean and his librettist Matthew Jocelyn do it? Certainly Neil Armfield’s excellent direction, Jon Clark’s wonderful lighting, and the large set designs by Ralph Myers, which the performers themselves …

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Latest Journalism

The Great Expedition

In the mid-eighteenth century a Danish-German expedition sought to discover the roots of the Hebrew Bible in Arabia and Mesopotamia. History Today, June 2017, pp. 72–77.

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Dating Dilemmas

The problem of dating Easter and its relationship to Passover. Standpoint magazine, April 2017, p. 51

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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