Mark Ronan
Latest Theatre Reviews

Vanessa, Glyndebourne, August 2018

August 6, 2018

Appreciation of a previously unknown opera can be helped enormously by the staging, and Keith Warner’s production evokes the mystery and repressed sensuality of this intriguing work by Samuel Barber. The story is that Vanessa, living with her mother the Baroness, and her niece Erika (possibly her daughter?), awaits the return of her one-time lover …

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Lohengrin, Bayreuth Festival, July 2018

July 29, 2018

This is a copy of my review in the Sunday Telegraph on 29th July 2018. The Wagner Festival in Bayreuth dates from 1876 when the composer’s extraordinary new opera house, with its recessed orchestra pit invisible to the audience, hosted the first complete performance of his four-part Ring cycle. After Wagner died in 1883, his …

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Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Bayreuth Festival, Bayreuther Festspiele, July 2018

July 29, 2018

In this revival of last year’s successful new Meistersinger director Barrie Kosky there seems to an excess of stage farce that rather weakens the overall effect. Too much mockery is expended on Beckmesser, rendering him not just a klutz but a pathetic creature shuffling over to Eva on his knees in Act 3 as his prize …

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Parsifal, Bayreuth Festival, Bayreuther Festspiele, July 2018

July 28, 2018

Parsifal in Bayreuth is one of opera’s great experiences. It is also the location of its first performance in 1882 where the marvellous acoustic of the Festspielhaus welcomes the huge dynamic range that this ‘sacred festival drama’ embodies. A thirty-year moratorium forbade stage performances elsewhere until the end of 1913, though the Royal Albert Hall hosted …

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Latest Journalism

Opera’s summer in the country

My take on summer opera festivals at Glyndebourne, Grange Park Opera, The Grange Festival, Longborough, Nevill Holt, Holland Park and Buxton. Standpoint magazine, September 2018, p. 57

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Isabeau, Opera Holland Park review: a faultless production of a minor work

Italian composer Pietro Mascagni never repeated the huge success of Cavalleria Rusticana, his first opera written at age 26, but he had a jolly good try. Daily Telegraph, 15 July 2018.

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The heroes who came up with zero

Zero — part of the ‘place-value’ system for writing numbers — came to Europe from India via the Arabic world. But the ancient Sumerians invented it! Standpoint magazine, July/August 2018, p. 68

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An Italian take on time and space

My review of The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli. Standpoint magazine, June 2018, p. 56

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Numbers Game (contd.)

How the Monty Hall problem exposes a human tendency to stick with difficult decisions. Standpoint magazine, March 2018, p. 6.

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March is the cruellest month

At one time the New Year started in March, in China it’s February 16 this year, and the British tax year starts on April 6. Why the differences? Standpoint magazine, February 2018, p. 57.

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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