Mark Ronan
Latest Theatre Reviews

The Damnation of Faust, BBC Prom 31, Royal Albert Hall, RAH, August 2017

August 9, 2017

Opera at the Proms is one of the glories of the summer season, allowing music and singers to communicate directly, with no director’s vision getting in the way. Two nights ago, Khovanshchina helped lay bare the soul of Russia, and now Berlioz’s magnificent musical evocation on the Faust myth, where the brilliant scholar veers into …

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Khovanshchina, BBC Prom 29, Royal Albert Hall, RAH, August 2017

August 7, 2017

As an old opera buff once told me, anyone confused by the story line in Khovanshchina should simply treat it as a series of tableaux — wise advice since Mussorgsky telescoped the history of three different uprisings onto a massive musical canvas painted with emotional confrontations, religious fundamentalism, human ambition and a struggle for the …

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Parsifal, Bayreuth Festival, July 2017

July 28, 2017

In Wagner’s final and most abstract opera, Uwe Eric Laufenberg’s superb production sets the mystical land of the Grail in the Middle East. The exact location appears fleetingly on a map during the Act 1 journey to the Grail ceremony where Gurnemanz explains that space and time become one, which they do at the speed …

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Tristan und Isolde, Bayreuth Festival, July 2017

July 27, 2017

At the end of Petra Lang’s beautifully sung Liebestod following her glorious performance of Isolde, a loud lonely boo broke the magic of this sublimely sung performance under the baton of Christian Thielemann. This was no criticism of Ms Lang nor Mr Thielemann, but a clearly premeditated, and hugely ill-mannered, expression of one person’s anger …

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Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Bayreuth Festival, July 2017

July 26, 2017

Wagner’s Nuremberg is a city of trials: Walther’s trial by the Mastersingers in Act 1, Beckmesser’s trial by Sachs as he delivers his serenade in Act 2, and their separate trials by the people in Act 3. Yet fifty years after Wagner’s death, Hitler took power and Nuremberg became the venue for those post-war Nazi …

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Latest Journalism

The Great Expedition

In the mid-eighteenth century a Danish-German expedition sought to discover the roots of the Hebrew Bible in Arabia and Mesopotamia. History Today, June 2017, pp. 72–77.

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Dating Dilemmas

The problem of dating Easter and its relationship to Passover. Standpoint magazine, April 2017, p. 51

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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