Mark Ronan
Latest Theatre Reviews

Lohengrin, Royal Opera, April 2022

April 24, 2022

In May 1849 after completing Lohengrin, Wagner was on the barricades with the rebels, at least according to his own account, but when Prussian troops arrived he moved to Switzerland. Like the master, his hero Lohengrin, having saved Elsa from certain death, declines to lead the troops into battle, and moves home to the Knights …

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Concert for Ukraine, Royal Opera House, April 2022

April 20, 2022

Congratulations to the Royal Opera House for this wonderfully emotional concert for Ukraine. As music director Antonio Pappano said in his introduction this is not a denigration of Russian culture, but an expression of sympathy with Ukrainian people, suffering under a Russian invasion, and the musical selections were carefully chosen to fit this — see …

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The Handmaid’s Tale, English National Opera, April 2022

April 12, 2022

This dystopian view of a 21st century ‘Republic of Gilead’ in America dominated by religious zealots is set to music by Danish composer Poul Ruders that seems to get lost in its own details. It is more a slightly muddled fable on the emptiness of totalitarianism than an opera, and lacks a clear narrative thread. …

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Peter Grimes, Royal Opera, March 2022

March 20, 2022

In her new production of Peter Grimes Deborah Warner brought the setting up to date with detritus on the beach and yobbos threatening Ellen Orford. As Grimes himself Allan Clayton was outstanding, rough and ready but with mental issues in Warner’s sympathetic portrayal. Excellent contributions from Bryn Terfel as Captain Balstrode, and John Tomlinson as Swallow …

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Jenufa, Welsh National Opera, March 2022

March 11, 2022

Janaček’s music elevates this tragic to a gripping intensity, given terrific effect under the baton of WNO’s music director Tomaš Hanus, who is Czech, and in view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine he spoke to the audience before the performance  saying, “Let’s play today for humanity”. The orchestra responded with huge emotion and energy, …

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Don Giovanni, Welsh National Opera, WNO, February 2022

March 8, 2022

Welsh National Opera revived their excellent 2011 staging with a cast whose vocal abilities superbly matched the needs of Mozart’s opera. It was as near perfect a performance as one could wish in a production that eschewed over-clever ideas, and was well worth the trip to Cardiff — 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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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