Mark Ronan
Latest Theatre Reviews

The Barber of Seville, English National Opera, February 2024

February 14, 2024

In her aria una voce poco fa, which was delightfully sung, the soprano Rosina shows herself attracted to the voice of a secret admirer, who later reveals himself as Count Almaviva. This wonderful Rossini comic opera is based on a plot by Pierre Beaumarchais, following the Italian Commedia dell’arte tradition, and the ENO did it …

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Elektra, Royal Opera, January 2023

January 15, 2024

Richard Strauss’s Salome is one of the greatest dramatic operas ever written, and in his final season as the Royal Opera’s music director, Antonio Pappano has decided to conduct it. In previous productions he has used it as a means to attract big name conductors, but this time he has decided to take it on …

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Cavalleria rusticana and I Pagliacci, Cav and Pag, Royal Opera, December 2023.

December 1, 2023

Cav and Pag may be old warhorses, but when given gripping productions with excellent singers they are thoroughly compelling. Both these productions at the Royal Opera do the trick, and under the baton of Daniel Oren both operas packed a huge emotional punch. See my review in The Article.

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Latest Journalism

How modern Numbers came to Europe

Our modern representation of numbers is the result of a complex process that can be traced back to the ancient Near East, via India and the Arab world — see my article in Engelsberg Ideas.

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The Pythagoras Myth

Contrary to popular belief, Pythagoras was by no means the discoverer of his eponymous theorem – it had already been known for over a thousand years. In popular perception however he became the source of the famous theorem about right-angled triangles: The Square on the Hypotenuse is equal to the Sum of the Squares on the Other Two Sides, a great result – serious mathematics indeed. But it has little to do with Pythagoras — see my article in Engelsberg Ideas.

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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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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