Mark Ronan
Latest Theatre Reviews

Peter Grimes, English National Opera, September 2023

September 24, 2023

Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes portrays its eponymous character as neither hero nor villain. Like everyone else in George Crabbe’s story his life is controlled by the sea, their destinies forged and circumscribed by powerful forces, just as Britten’s was in the Second World War when he left Britain for America where this work was …

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La Forza del Destino, Royal Opera, September 2023

September 20, 2023

A man’s father is killed by an accidental gunshot. He holds his sister and her foreign lover responsible, and vows revenge. Despite the lovers parting, and taking sanctuary in religious devotion, they cannot escape the son’s undying fury, which in a scene of poetic justice reunites them at the end. The opera is based on …

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Das Rheingold, Royal Opera, September 2023

September 13, 2023

Wagner’s Ring, of which Rheingold is the prologue, attracts some appalling stagings, and at Bayreuth this summer tickets went begging for the previous year’s awful production. Now Covent Garden has taken the lead with a superb new production by Barrie Kosky. See my review in The Article.

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Parsifal, Bayreuth Festival, July 2023

August 2, 2023

Booing is par for the course at the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, and the Parsifal production opening the 2023 season well deserved it. Singers and orchestra were another matter however. Most people go to Bayreuth because they love Wagner’s music, superbly played by the excellent musicians, and under the baton of Pablo Heras-Casado this was …

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Latest Journalism

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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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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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