Mark Ronan
Latest Theatre Reviews

Ariadne auf Naxos, Longborough Festival Opera, LFO, July 2018

July 16, 2018

One of Richard Strauss’s greatest works, with a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, this juxtaposes a young composer’s new opera on the plight of Ariadne with a commedia dell’arte  entertainment, both to be performed for guests at the house of one of the super-rich. In the opera story Ariadne has absconded with Theseus, after helping …

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Pushkin, Grange Park Opera, GPO, July 2018

July 12, 2018

Wow! This was the best thing so far this summer, and the audience acknowledged so with a standing ovation. Well deserved indeed, for it does what opera is supposed to do — engage the audience in an emotional experience rather than an intellectual exercise, which however cleverly contrived does not make one want to rush …

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Idomeneo, Buxton Festival, July 2018

July 9, 2018

To understand the link from Handel’s opera seria to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, Mozart’s Idomeneo is a key work that tackles Greek drama with knowing psychological insight. This sensible production by Stephen Medcalf gives clarity to the story, allowing the music to speak for itself and enhancing the theatrical aspects with a chorus performing …

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Alzira, Buxton Festival, July 2018

July 8, 2018

This early Verdi opera is set in Peru, based on a play that Voltaire designed to criticise the smug superiority of conventional Christianity in a foreign context. Its libretto by Salvatore Cammarano of the Teatro San Carlo in Naples ignored most of Voltaire’s subtleties, but Verdi was delighted to be working with him and continued …

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Roméo et Juliette, Grange Park Opera, GPO, July 2018

July 2, 2018

Of the half-dozen or so operas on this Shakespeare play, Gounod’s is undoubtedly the best, and Patrick Mason’s staging in pre-war fascist Italy gives an interesting modern take on the background to the feuding families. Knives and baseball bats come out amidst threats and fights, leaving Juliette a prey to her own burgeoning emotions, her …

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Latest Journalism

The heroes who came up with zero

Zero is inherent in the ‘place-value’ system of writing numbers, which came to Europe from India via the Arabic world — but was invented by the ancient Sumerians in Mesopotamia, Standpoint magazine, July/August 2018, p. 68

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An Italian take on time and space

A review of The Order of Time a new book 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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Acting the goat with the Greeks

Innumeracy at the top of European politics beggared Greece and may now vitiate Brexit negotiations, Standpoint magazine, December 2017, p. 69

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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