Mark Ronan
Latest Theatre Reviews

Nabucco, Royal Opera, January 2022

January 18, 2022

The eponymous character in Verdi’s third opera Nabucco is Nebuchadnezzar II, mighty king of Babylon. The opera calls for a colourful production, but without the slightest nod to Byron’s imagery about the Babylonian ‘cohorts gleaming in purple and gold’, here was a mid-twentieth century, third-rate dictatorship, with bare-chested guards in braces toting AK-47s. See my review …

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Tosca, Royal Opera, December 2021

December 13, 2021

This performance by the Royal Opera’s ‘B Cast’, Anna Pirozzi (Tosca), Freddie de Tommaso (Cavaradossi) and Claudio Sgura (Scarpia), showed them to be a serious A Team, with singing at its finest, characterisation at its most convincing, and musical performance at its greatest intensity under the baton of Ukrainian conductor Oksana Lyniv. See my review …

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Nutcracker, Royal Ballet, November 2021

November 30, 2021

The genesis of Tchaikovsky’s ballet Nutcracker is due to Ivan Vsevolozhsky, director of the Imperial Russian Theatres, who persuaded Marius Petipa to create a scenario. The composer had reservations, since it could not fully represent the magical realism of the E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story, but the Royal Ballet’s version cleverly frames it in a way that respects …

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The Valkyrie (Die Walküre), English National Opera, November 2021

November 22, 2021

The first glimpse of what will be Richard Jones’ new production of Wagner’s Ring, for the English National Opera and the Metropolitan Opera in New York, shows some intriguing imagery. Rheingold will appear in the 2021/22 season, with Siegfried and Götterämmerung in 2024 and 2025. See my review of Valkyrie in The Article.

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Macbeth, Royal Opera, November 2021

November 17, 2021

This latest revival of Verdi’s Macbeth is superb, with Anna Pirozzi as a hugely powerful and mendacious Lady Macbeth. The golden cage in which Macbeth and his wife live after murdering King Duncan is physically represented on stage, and Macbeth finds himself impaled on its bars at the end. See 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