Mark Ronan
Latest Theatre Reviews

From the House of the Dead, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, October 2017

October 9, 2017

Hugely powerful and strangely life affirming. Janáček’s opera on Dostoyevsky’s novel about convicts in a Siberian prison camp might seem unpromising material, but the composer was a master at turning stories into dramatic masterpieces and this — his final opera — is extraordinary. Composed on hand written staves that did not always extend to a …

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Barber of Seville, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, Oct 2017

October 6, 2017

This truly wonderful production by Jonathan Miller, now in its thirteenth revival, is a star in the ENO firmament, and a friend seeing it for the first time was bowled over by the costumes, sets and lighting. Under revival director Peter Relton, whose Tosca launched the new Grange Park opera this past summer, it looks …

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Aida, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, Sept 2017

September 29, 2017

This brand new Aida from Phelim McDermott, whose stunning Akhnaten for the ENO in 2016 won the Olivier Award earlier this year, showed once again some spectacular theatre aided by the Improbable company. It all started with great subtlety as the curtain peeped open, at first showing just a small triangle of light at the …

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Khovanshchina, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, September 2017

September 24, 2017

This great opera portrays late seventeenth century events in Russia before Peter the Great came to power. Musorgsky, who wrote his own libretto, invents some love interest, notably in the character of Marfa, though the true historical background and exigencies of getting operas to stage are well described in the excellent programme essays, which also …

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Latest Journalism

Coming to Terms with History

How Barrie Kosky’s new Meistersinger at Bayreuth is helping the Wagner Festival to come to terms with the past. Standpoint magazine, September 2017, p. 54.

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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