Mark Ronan
Latest Theatre Reviews

Litvinenko, Grange Park Opera, July 2021

July 20, 2021

Congratulations to Grange Park Opera for this remarkable opera on the life and death of Alexander Litvinenko, murdered in London by the Russian regime using Polonium (which attacks vital parts of the body). He died in hospital, and this infamous story has been converted into an opera with a libretto by Kit Hesketh-Harvey and music …

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King Lear, Grange Festival, July 2021

July 17, 2021

This was a Lear of extraordinary power and depth, performed not by Shakespearean actors but opera singers. With Emma Bell as Lear’s daughter Regan, Kim Begley as the Fool, Thomas Allen as Gloucester, and John Tomlinson as Lear it delves deeply into what lies behind the surface of power. See my review in The Article.

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The Enchanted Pig, Buxton Festival, July 2021

July 14, 2021

This Jonathan Dove opera is based on a fairy tale. A young woman named Flora must use the power of love to break a spell on the husband chosen for her by fate. He has been turned into a pig, and the antidote to this enchantment is true love. But it involves a journey via …

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The Dancing Master, Buxton Festival, July 2021

July 14, 2021

Matthew Arnold was a highly talented composer let down by his mental health and a predilection for drink. This opera followed a previously abandoned collaboration on a great opera to rival both Boris Godunov and Otello, with the same librettist, but this time they went to the opposite extreme, turning a Restoration comedy into a …

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Ivan the Terrible, Grange Park Opera, June 2021

June 25, 2021

Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera, often called The Maid of Pskov, gives a human insight to Ivan IV (the ‘Terrible’) who encounters a young woman in Pskov (near the Latvian-Estonian border) he realises is his own daughter. She has no idea he is her real father, and will never find out as she is shot in the confusion …

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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