Mark Ronan
Latest Theatre Reviews

Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Bayreuth, Aug 2022

August 4, 2022

No gold. No Ring. This new production at Bayreuth has offended almost everyone, but contains interesting ideas while departing from Wagner’s story in many ways. For example it is not Hunding who kills Siegmund, but Wotan himself. Sieglinde is already pregnant when Siegmund encounters her. Oh, and Wotan and Alberich are twin brothers! My review …

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Little Women, Opera Holland Park, July 2022

July 31, 2022

Louisa May Alcott’s iconic novel Little Women is now an opera. American composer Mark Adamo has created the music and libretto for this story of four sisters in New England during the American civil-war era. It’s a remarkable achievement that enjoyed immediate success at its premiere in 1998 at Houston Grand Opera. My review in …

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Margot la Rouge, Le Villi, Opera Holland Park, July 2022

July 23, 2022

An evening of Italian verismo at Opera Holland Park provided a very effective production of two little known works. The first half featured Margot la Rouge an opera by Delius, not normally thought of as composing for this genre, and the second half of the evening included Puccini’s first stage work Le Villi. See my review in …

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Gypsy, La Donna del Lago, and Viva la Diva, Buxton Festival, July 2022

July 11, 2022

The Buxton Festival got off to a cracking start with the musical Gypsy to lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The following nights saw operas by Rossini and Donizetti. Rossini’s La Donna del Lago was beautifully sung, but in a very odd staging. The Donizetti was an operatic farce turned into third-rate Monty Python. See my reviews …

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Rusalka, Garsington, July 2022

July 7, 2022

Water is the source of life, yet for the Prince in Dvořák’s remarkable opera Rusalka it leads to death. The natural world he has encountered only when out hunting does not fulfil his needs, and this lost soul is drawn to the lake with its mysterious yet vibrant life. See my review in The Article.

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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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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