Mark Ronan
Latest Theatre Reviews

Queen of Spades, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, January 2019

January 21, 2019

Pushkin’s original story deals with a man obsessed by gambling; in Tchaikovsky’s hands it acquires a love interest as he falls for Liza, while using her as a means for gaining access to the Countess, who once acquired a secret of how to win at faro (a card game). Sadly, Stefan Herheim’s production gums things …

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Nutcracker, Royal Ballet, ROH, December 2018

December 4, 2018

Tchaikovsky’s final ballet contains some of his most glorious music, but you wouldn’t know it from this dull and occasionally too forceful rendering of the score conducted by Barry Wordsworth. A pity too because the dancing was superb. As Clara, Anna Rose O’Sullivan was full of lightness and youthful wonder, with beautiful arm movements, and …

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Latest Journalism

Is this the real life or just fantasy?

It may not be possible to know if we are living in a simulation — but perhaps we don’t need certainty. Standpoint magazine, Dec 2018, p.78.

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Wagner’s Ring and the European Union have a lot in common

A comparison of the Ring itself with the Euro, and Valhalla with the EU. The Article, 16 November 2018.

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Escaping the Moscow ghetto

Now a professor at UC Berkeley, Edward Frenkel was once a brilliant Russian teenager rejected by Moscow State University simply because he was classed as Jewish. Standpoint magazine, Oct 2018, p.55.

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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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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