Mark Ronan
Latest Theatre Reviews

Un Ballo in Maschera, Grange Park Opera, GPO, June 2018

June 23, 2018

In staging Verdi’s Ballo in Maschera about the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden, the first decision is whether to set it in its originally intended milieu or follow Verdi, compelled by the censors to avoid a regicide on stage. As a result he set it in America with Gustav as Riccardo, governor of Boston. Stephen …

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Le nozze di Figaro, Nevill Holt Opera, NHO, June 2018

June 15, 2018

Nevill Holt has finally come of age with its new opera house, following Oliver Mears’ revelatoryTosca last year in the now-vanished temporary structure. Mears is now artistic director of Covent Garden, and Nevill Holt a substantial presence on the country house opera scene. The outside of the new 400-seat theatre exhibits a substantial, almost church-like presence …

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Der fliegende Holländer, Longborough Festival Opera, LFO, June 2018

June 14, 2018

This was musically terrific, and what a refreshing change to see a simple staging of Wagner that stays true to the essence of the story without fancy directorial accoutrements. As the overture ends slow moving figures pass across the stage carrying model houses and a lighthouse, like the chorus in a Greek drama, reminding us …

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Agrippina, The Grange Festival, June 2018

June 9, 2018

Agrippina, wife of the emperor Claudius (Claudio), is bent on securing the throne for Nero (Nerone), her son by a previous marriage. A scheming woman who manipulates her spiritually weak husband and everyone around her, she finds herself out-manoeuvred by the pretty Poppea, desired by Claudio and Nerone, to say nothing of her beloved Ottone …

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Lohengrin, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, June 2018

June 8, 2018

Opening night of this new production under the baton of Andris Nelsons was musical perfection. Covent Garden even managed to bring in Klaus Florian Vogt, arguably the top Lohengrin in the world, who has sung the role numerous times at Bayreuth. For English audiences unused to hearing him, his heavenly voice carries the full power …

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Latest Journalism

An Italian take on time and space

A review of The Order of Time a new book by Carlo Rovelli. Standpoint magazine, June 2018, p. 56

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Numbers Game (contd.)

How the Monty Hall problem exposes a human tendency to stick with difficult decisions, Standpoint magazine, March 2018, p. 6.

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March is the cruellest month

At one time the New Year started in March, in China it’s February 16 this year, and the British tax year starts on April 6. Why the differences? Standpoint magazine, February 2018, p. 57.

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Acting the goat with the Greeks

Innumeracy at the top of European politics beggared Greece and may now vitiate Brexit negotiations, Standpoint magazine, December 2017, p. 69

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Indiana Jones and the table of Babel

An ancient mathematical tablet from about 1800 BC shows Babylonian trigonometrists had long anticipated the Greeks, Standpoint magazine, November 2017, p. 59.

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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