Mark Ronan
Latest Theatre Reviews

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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Jephtha, Royal Opera, November 2023

November 11, 2023

In this Biblical tale, Jephtha is recalled from exile to defend the Israelites against the Ammonites. He is promised the role of permanent chieftain if he succeeds, and in order to ensure victory promises God he will sacrifice the first thing he sees on his return, which turns out to be his own loving daughter. …

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7 Deaths of Maria Callas, ENO, November 2023

November 7, 2023

Maria Callas — La Divina — was a phenomenon who changed the very nature of operatic singing. Born Maria Anna Cecilia Sofia Kalogeropoulos to Greek émigré parents in New York her father changed their surname to Kalos (meaning beautiful), later to Callas. While still in her twenties she sang utterly different title roles from Ponchielli’s …

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Anemoi, The Cellist, Royal Ballet, October 2023

October 26, 2023

The current Royal Ballet double bill starts with a marvellous new creation called Anemoi, choreographed by one of the company’s senior dancers Valentino Zucchetti. Its title refers to the Greek wind gods and its choreography shows the effect the wind has on the world around it. The second ballet, The Cellist by Cathy Marston is …

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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