Mark Ronan
Latest Theatre Reviews

Jenufa, Royal Opera, September 2021

September 30, 2021

This new production by Claus Guth abstracts the story from its village setting, draws you in, and by Act 3 packs a terrific emotional punch under the excellent baton of Henrik Nánási. In the earlier production last seen twenty years ago, Karita Mattila was Jenufa herself but is now a superb Kostelnička, with Asmik Grigorian …

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Rigoletto, Royal Opera, September 2021

September 14, 2021

A magnificent start to the new season and full reopening of the Royal Opera after the Covid closure. This new production by Artistic Director Oliver Mears really hits the nail on the head, and portrays the Duke as a very nasty piece of work, rather than a mere libertine. Superb conducting by Antonio Pappano, and …

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Alcina, Grimeborn, August 2021

August 30, 2021

This is the last of three operas Handel took from the Italian poet Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso. It involves a sorceress named Alcina who, like Circe in Homer’s Odyssey, transforms any visiting man into a wild beast or even a force of nature. He composed it for his first season at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden,  and …

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Tristan und Isolde, Glyndebourne, August 2021

August 14, 2021

A superb musical rendering of Wagner’s most intense opera under the baton of Robin Ticciati. This was semi-staged and therefore avoided any egregious directorial interpretations, and allowed the music speak for itself. Excellent singing by a very fine cast headed by Simon O’Neill as Tristan. See my review in The Article.

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Latest Journalism

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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Dark Matters

Academics in this country need to allow new ideas rather than orthodoxy and group-think. See my article in The Critic on 22 June 2020 about the dis-invitation of a physicist who was scheduled to give a technical talk.

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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