Mark Ronan
Latest Theatre Reviews

The Rape of Lucretia, Royal Opera, Linbury Studio, November 2022

November 17, 2022

Tradition holds that the Rape of Lucretia is the event separating the kings of Rome from the later Roman Republic. According to Livy, Lucretia personified “beauty and purity,” and exemplified the highest Roman standards, and while her husband was away at battle, she would stay home and pray for his safe return. In the meantime the …

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The Yeomen of the Guard

November 5, 2022

This Yeomen of the Guard was huge fun. Gone are the days when the English National Opera wanted to be at the vanguard of companies creating new and sometimes absurd twists on much loved operas. That has disappeared, at least for now, and sensible stagings are the order of the day. See my review in The …

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Gods of the Game

October 11, 2022

Football — at the opera? Indeed, and the charming location of Grange Park Opera in Surrey was the venue for staging an energetic football opera that attracted a family audience, including children. Gods of the Game features the world’s first football fan chorus — real football fans from Newcastle to West Ham were given a crash …

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Mayerling, Royal Ballet, October 2022

October 8, 2022

On 30 January 1889 Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria died in a suicide pact with Baroness Mary Vetsera at the Mayerling hunting lodge, some 15 miles outside Vienna. He was thirty years old. In the late 1970s Kenneth Macmillan created a ballet with a score by John Lanchbery dealing with the historical incidents leading up to …

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Tosca, English National Opera, Sept 2022

October 3, 2022

As a musical performance of Tosca this was simply wonderful. The opera is straightforward to stage, requiring only three sets: the interior of a large church, a substantial apartment (Scarpia’s) in the vast Farnese Palace, and the upper parts of the Castel Sant’Angelo, all in Rome. This new production for the English National Opera — …

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Aida, Royal Opera, September 2022

September 30, 2022

In 1869 Ismail Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt built an opera house in Cairo — the first in Africa. It opened with a successful performance of Rigoletto, but the Khedive — the title meant Viceroy within the Ottoman Empire— was keen to impress the world even more by presenting a new Verdi opera. My review …

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Latest Journalism

Vandalism at the Coliseum: why we should not let the ENO die

Is the English National Opera dying? Or does it stand at the threshold of new developments? The argument for death is that it has difficulty filling the London Coliseum, a vast auditorium that accommodates an audience of about two and a half thousand. It cannot survive without a decent subsidy from the state. Can we afford it? As for the idea of moving the whole thing to Manchester, Arts Council England has certainly not evaluated the logistics nor the implications of its hasty decision. My essay in The Article.

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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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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