Mark Ronan
Latest Theatre Reviews

Orphée by Philip Glass, English National Opera, ENO, November 2019

November 18, 2019

Glass’s opera, based on a film by Jean Cocteau, is the final one in ENO’s Orpheus quartet, and Netia Jones intriguing production reveals Orphée’s mysterious wanderings on the edges of death and immortality. Terrific performances by Jennifer France as The Princess and Nicky Spence as her chauffeur — my review in The Article.

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The Mask of Orpheus, English National Opera, ENO, October 2019

October 21, 2019

Harrison Birtwistle’s Mask of Orpheus is a complex, multi-layered composition, more symphony than opera, but high camp is not the right way to stage it. This was director Daniel Kramer’s swan song after his ill-starred role as artistic director, and confirms that the ENO did the right thing in dispensing with his services. My review …

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Don Pasquale, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, October 2019

October 16, 2019

This new production at the Royal Opera follows its Paris premiere in March, and is brilliantly performed with a cast headed Bryn Terfel and Russian-German soprano Olga Peretyatko. Glorious comic timing by both under the sensitive and lively baton of Evelino Pidò. See my review in The Article.

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Die Frau ohne Schatten, Vienna State Opera, October 2019

October 14, 2019

Christian Thielemann conducted this performance in Vienna on 10 October 2019, 100 years to the day after its premiere in the same location. The superb cast was headed by Camilla Nylund, Nina Stemme, Mihoko Fujimura, Stephen Gould and Tomasz Konieczny. See my review in The Article.

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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