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Literature / Maskerade

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Yrs, the Opera Ghost

The 18th Discworld novel, and the fourth or fifth in the 'witches' theme. Its purpose within the theme is to bridge Lords and Ladies and Carpe Jugulum, which it does by means of an extended parody of the 1925 silent film version of The Phantom of the Opera.

With the loss of Magrat to her royal calling, Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax find themselves with a coven of two. Their eye falls on the expansive Agnes Nitt, who prefers calling herself Perdita X Dream (or, as the women of Lancre say, "that Agnes girl who calls herself Perditax"). Agnes, though, has no interest in witches, and wants to be an opera singer. Stealing away to Ankh-Morpork, she soon finds herself (and her amazing voice) as a vocal understudy to the skinnier but much dumber and less melodious Christine.

As it turns out, opera is much less about singing and more about superstition, mysterious strangers coming out of mirrors, vicious murders, and catty sniping. Oh, and losing buckets of money, much to the chagrin of the opera's owner. As it just so happens, Nanny and Granny have their own business in Ankh-Morpork, and are not above giving young Agnes a hand, regardless of whether she wants it or not.

Preceded by Interesting Times, followed by Feet of Clay. Preceded in the Witches series by Lords and Ladies, followed by Carpe Jugulum.

Contains examples of:

  • Allergic to Routine: At the start of the book, Granny Weatherwax is showing definite signs of going stir-crazy. After her adventures with Nanny Ogg and Magrat, ordinary witchcraft just isn't a challenge anymore. Nanny is beginning to worry that she'll either "go bad" or, perhaps more likely, spend so much time Borrowing that she forgets how to come back.
  • All Part of the Show: When Greebo chases the Ghost around the balconies in the middle of the performance of Il Truccatore, the audience applauds; some genuinely think it's part of the show, while others are less sure but don't want to risk looking uncultured if they're wrong.
  • ...And That Would Be Wrong: Granny spends a few paragraphs explaining in loving detail the Cool and Unusual Punishment she could give the villain... if she was bad.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: A deconstruction. Granny constantly feels people should be sceptical when she displays her magical powers, and observe that the same things could be done with trickery. If she knows you're at the door, she might have looked out a window. If she blocks a sword blade with her bare hands, she might have had a steel plate in her palm. (In truth, she didn't look out the window, and she actually did a Barehanded Blade Block, but she still feels that people ought to be looking for common-sense explanations.)
  • Arc Words: Granny asking people the question "If your house was on fire, what would you take out?" She finds out that Walter Plinge thinks in an unusual, but not evil, manner when he replies: "The fire!"
  • Armor-Piercing Response: This exchange between Walter and Agnes has a devastating but utterly true one:
    André: It'd be terrible if anything happened to [Christine] (in the aftermath of her 'fainting' again), everyone says she shows such promise.
    Agnes: Yes, but... you know it was me doing the singing.
    André: Oh, yes... yes, of course... but... well... this is opera... you know...
    Agnes (to Walter): But it was me you taught!
    Walter: Then you were very good. I suspect she will never be quite that good, even with many months of my tuition. But, Perdita, have you ever heard of the words "star quality"?
    Agnes: Is it the same as talent?
    Walter: It is rarer.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: A list of feared and respected opera conductors: the one who extracted a piccolo player's liver and fried it on a cymbal after one wrong note too many, the one who impaled three violinists on his baton, and the one who made really hurtful and sarcastic comments in a loud voice.
  • Ascended Extra: Agnes briefly appeared in Lords and Ladies, and goes on to have a prominent role in Carpe Jugulum.
  • Asymmetric Dilemma: Done brilliantly by Nanny Ogg.
    "Has anyone got an opener for a bottle of beer? ... Has anyone got something to drink a bottle of beer out of? ... Good. Now, has anyone got a bottle of beer?"
  • Awesome McCoolname: Perdita X. Dream, the name Agnes gives to herself. The "X" just stands for "Someone who has a cool and exciting middle initial", and the earthy folk of Lancre just don't get it, calling her "That Agnes girl who calls herself Perditax".
  • Bait-and-Switch: Early on, Granny and Nanny discuss Greebo doing "It" when he got caught somewhere he shouldn't have been. It's a little later on it turns out "It" is Greebo turning human when startled.
  • Balancing Death's Books: While the witches are staying with a farming family, both their son and one of their cows fall ill. Destiny says the child should die and the cow should live, but Granny plays Death at poker for the chance to make it the other way around.
  • Banister Slide: Nanny slides down the balustrade of the Opera House's big grand staircase while chasing after Mrs Plinge. The narrator notes that "it is the fate of all banisters worth sliding down that there is something nasty waiting at the far end"; in this case it's a fancy statue, which Nanny sees coming in time to dodge.
  • Barehanded Blade Block: Granny pulls this at the very end when she blocks Salzella's sword. She can't magic steel, but she can magic her own hand, displacing the wound she has to sustain until she's ready to deal with it.
  • Batman Gambit: The scene where Granny Weatherwax decides to go to Ankh-Morpork (which involves, among other things, misdelivered letters, Granny berating Nanny Ogg, Nanny being cheated out of five thousand dollars, a humorous cookbook, Nanny being repentant and embarrassed for pretty much the entire conversation, and Granny being her usual take charge self) has its entire impact changed by the last line:
    In the scullery, Nanny Ogg smiled to herself.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Nanny Ogg not only has "a mind like a buzzsaw behind a face like an elderly apple" which she goes to some lengths to hide, but also a serious ruthless streak. Sharp remarks from her are described like "being bitten by a friendly dog".
    "And don't go thinking I'm nice. I'm only nice compared to Esme, but so is practic'ly everyone."
  • Big Eater: Henry Slugg, especially when he's around real Morporkian food. He's still a hell of an eater in his Enrico Basilica persona, but he's so famous that everywhere he goes, people fall over themselves to specially prepare his "native" Brindisian dishes. When Nanny subtly sees to it that the Opera House catering provides him a meal of regular Ankh-Morpork food, things get messy.
  • Big Fun: Henry Slugg is cheerful, good-natured and deeply enjoys music and food. He's not quite as happy as he pretends, though, having a few regrets about the girl he left behind and even more about how everyone insists on serving him pasta.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The swan's line from Lohenshaak's "Pedlar's Song" translates as "I'm cutting my own throat", which is both a Dibbler reference and an accurate description of what the swan does by singing it.
    • Henry Slugg, singing in the bathtub, segues between English and Italian versions of "Show Me The Way To Go Home".
  • Born in the Wrong Century: It's said that Agnes was born 20 years too late, rather than back when your voice mattered more than your looks and every opera singer had a build like hers; indeed, every one of the greats had names that were puns for how fat they were.
    • To drive this home, there is more than one scene where characters who truly love the music lament that now a woman has to look like Christine to star in opera and the music has to be slipped in somehow.
  • Brainless Beauty: Christine is a heavy parody of the trope. She is both tremendously stupid and has an astoundingly low attention span for anything that's not her, zoning out within seconds.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: When Granny comes back from seeing Mrs Plinge home, she asks Nanny what's happened while she was gone. Nanny reports that one of the male opera singers sang an aria, then one of the female opera singers sang an aria, then a dead body fell onto the stage.
  • Brick Joke:
    • From four books ago. In preparation for his wedding to Magrat, Verence tried to get a book on "marital arts", but ended up with one on martial arts instead. Apparently he has since succeeded, since Nanny found such a book in the castle and spent a few minutes drawing moustaches on all the illustrations. note 
    • Early on, the opera staff regard it as a sign of dread that Mr. Bucket is the sort of person who thinks he can determine what people are like by looking in their eyes and shaking their hand. Later on, Granny Weatherwax reveals she thinks along the same lines.
    • Nanny Ogg is familiar with Mrs. Palm's because her son stayed there while he was stealing lead off the roof of the opera house (in Nanny's mind, it's not a crime when an Ogg does it). Later on, Mr. Salzella lists off the list of "... accidents" the opera house has been having, but mentions he's pretty sure the missing lead from the roof isn't part of the Ghost's antics. He'd know.
  • Brutal Honesty: One the Ghost's defining character traits. He's not doing it to be cruel, but some of his responses can be absolutely vicious in their accuracy, particularly in his response to Agnes (pretending to be Christine in the dark) when she says (correctly) that "Perdita" is much better than 'her' (Christine).
    "This is true. But while I can teach you to sing like her, I cannot teach her to look like you."
    • Granny Weatherwax carries on her habit of using Headology to dupe people into coming to these sorts of conclusions completely on their own. One of the most vicious examples comes when she asks Agnes if she's really enjoying "being someone else's voice" and standing in the shadows while Christine gets all the attention.
  • …But He Sounds Handsome: When the Ghost offers "Perdita" singing lessons thinking she's Christinenote  she can't resist telling him, "Perdita is a lot better than me". She quickly comes to regret it, because, with his natural Brutal Honesty, he responds by telling her precisely why he doesn't consider Perdita worth his time. To be exact, while Perdita is an incredibly talented singer, whose talent he admires, she's also a fairly textbook Brawn Hilda. And while he can train Christine to be as good as Perdita (he later modifies this once he finds out the truth, admitting that Christine won't ever be quite as good as her, not even after many months of one to one tuition), he can't train Perdita to be as slim, pretty, and graceful as Christine.
  • Chandelier Swing: When Greebo is chasing the Opera Ghost around the Opera House. Reality itself actually realigns so he can accomplish this, rather than plummeting to his death.
  • Chekhov's Gag: Nanny Ogg's "suicider" scumble, mentioned in a footnote, comes up toward the end when she uses it to knock out Mrs. Plinge, and Nobbs and Detritus.
  • Chekhov's Skill: When Granny calculates the royalties Nanny should be getting, the text notes that she's "keenly numerate" because she suspects anyone using numbers is trying to get away with something. At the end of the novel she quickly deciphers the Opera House accounts book, which has been carefully curated by Salzella to conceal his embezzlement.
  • Chess with Death: As usual, Death dislikes the traditional game, so Granny challenges him to a hand of poker instead for a boy's life. She wins, though it's implied that Death let her, because he's on our side. Death had four "ones" — an ace can either be counted as below the deuce or above the king. She also fixes his arm for him with her chiropractic know-how.
    • Although there is also the implication that he was scared of her. She admits that, if she had lost, the first thing she would have done would be to break his arm. A implication heavily reduced by her behavior towards Death compared to others though.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Mr Bucket is told that the opera spends a small fortune on ballet shoes because they wear out so fast, he instructs the ballerinas to incorporate more high jumps into their choreographies and stand on tip-toe when possible. Guess which activities wear out these shoes the most...
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Obscure, but Mr. Bucket's remark about "a dreadful bend in the road" might be referring to Dead Man's Curve, where Susan's parents and Mr. Clete were killed in road accidents in Soul Music.
    • Also, several to Lords and Ladies, such as the brief mention of another Carter son named after a vice, Deviousness Carter.
    • The happy greetings Granny Weatherwax receives when she and Nanny Ogg show up at Mrs. Palm's looking for a place to stay while in the city, due to all the witching she did for them back in Equal Rites. (Much to Nanny's astonishment, who assumes Granny doesn't realize the place is a brothel.)
    • There's a mention of how the show went on even when a dragon was roosting on the roof of the opera house, which happened in Guards! Guards!.
    • At least one of the girls who Nanny dismisses as no longer qualified to replace Magrat was one of Lucy 'Diamanda' Tockley's friends in the previous book. (She appears in the next, too, if you remember her from this mention.)
    • When Nanny reflects that she's seen many strange things in her life, the ones listed are all from previous books.
    • When Granny is getting a makeover, the beautician remarks that she has excellent skin and she sadly agrees, which is a nod to the bit in Equal Rites about how she's always regretted having a good complexion because a few warts would make her look more witchy. And when the hairdresser asks how she has such good hair she says "You have to make sure there's no newts in the water", which is a nod to a joke in Reaper Man.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Played for laughs when someone's long-lost love shows up at the very end, with no real impact on the plot, to Agnes' despair. Hey, that's how opera works.
  • Could Say It, But...: Walter resorts to this to tell Nanny Ogg what they know about The Ghost, as they've been told not to tell but know they should.
  • Deadly Dodging: The Ghost uses this tactic against some muggers threatening Granny Weatherwax and Mrs. Plinge, dodging and weaving so much the muggers end up stabbing each other.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Salzella. He takes it so far he almost becomes the Meta Guy who subsists on Black Comedy.
  • Deconstructive Parody: In particular, much is made of the fact that seeing a serial killer as a dashing romantic figure is a sign that your priorities are seriously out of whack.
  • The Ditz: Christine.
  • Does Not Like Spam: Basilica has gotten incredibly sick of pasta (it doesn't help that it's usually cooked very badly), but he can't tell anyone he hates it because it's part of his makeover as a singer from Brindisi.
  • Doing It for the Art: In-Universe example: Salzella tells Mr. Bucket this is the reason why anyone produces opera, as it makes no money. It turns out he's lying through his teeth, as he's stealing all the profits and actually hates opera with a passion.
  • Door Dumb: Either the person singing Porta Maledetta (literally "Damn Door" in Italian, er, Brindisian) is Door Dumb or the person who labelled the door in the first place was, because it's labeled Pull and indeed she is pulling...perhaps it should be marked Push? (Then again, it sticks no matter what the hell she does.)
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: Granny plays poker with Death for child's life. She gets four queens, he gets four aces... but decides to declare "I lose, all I have is four ones" with a wink.
  • Drama Queen: According to Salzella everyone in opera is a highly-strung maniac on a good day.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: In-universe example. Salzella makes several jokes about people who have just been murdered; Mr. Bucket finds them distasteful. This takes on a whole new meaning after the reveal Salzella was the one who committed the murders.
  • Dude, Where's My Reward?: This is Agnes' reaction at the end of the book. Nanny and Granny don't seem to sympathise with her very much, but they've been in the exact situation many times before and Agnes is going to need to learn that Life Isn't Fair if she's going to be their third witch.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Andre being a secret policeman becomes this after Night Watch. While most of this isn't too much of a problem - it makes sense for Vimes to recruit undercover policemen - there's a whacking great problem with the name. Specifically, the idea that he would ever create anything even approximating a secret police division that's named the 'Cable Street Particulars' after the reveal of what the original Particulars were like makes about as much sense as Mahatma Gandhi advocating the foundation of a Fourth Reich. You can probably just blame the History Monks for that one.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Mrs. Plinge tries to invoke this when she and Granny are attacked by thieves: "Oh, please don't hurt us, kind sirs, we are harmless old ladies! Haven't you got mothers?" One of them responds: "I 'ad a mother once. Only I think I must of et 'er..."
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Or Brindisian in this case.
  • Exact Words: The "Departure" aria Agnes sings at one point is described as being about how hard it is for a character to leave the man she loves. It turns out the lyrics literally translate into a complaint about a stuck door.
  • Eyelash Fluttering: Christine flutters her eyelashes when reviving from her swoon, or possibly when realising people aren't paying enough attention to her reviving from her swoon.
  • Fake Faint:
    • Christine is a master of feminine fainting, with Agnes' inner monologue sourly noting that it's something she's intelligent about, considering how she managed to do so with such precision that it likely didn't even hurt.
    • Not just Christine—at one point, it's noted that some of the ballerinas faint "carefully, so as not to get their clothes dirty."
    • Dame Timpani does this as well, pointedly, before resorting to hysterics to try and get some of the attention back from Christine. It doesn't work.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: Subverted, and in fact defied. Everyone says that the chandelier is an accident waiting to happen. But despite the villain's best efforts (and thanks to the intervention of Nanny Ogg), it doesn't happen.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Brindisi (the name of a real city, and also an operatic term for a drinking song) for Italy.
  • Fauxreigner: Brindisian tenor Enrico Basilica—once known as Henry Slugg of Ankh-Morpork, because you can't sing opera with a name like "Henry Slugg".
  • Felony Misdemeanour: Granny treats Nanny having written a book with the same sort of disdain usually held for committing actual crime.
  • Flynning: Shown and mentioned between the two Ghosts, until it becomes deadly real. Except not, because in true Discworld fashion, they're still just Flynning.
  • Foreshadowing: Henry Slugg from Ankh-Morpork becomes Enrico Basilica from Brindisi, because "the trick is to make sure that everywhere you go, you are from somewhere else", with Nanny noting that conjurers are the same way, making grandiose claims about being fresh from the Court of Klatch. Later, Andre claims that he "...used to teach music to the Seriph's children in Klatch" indicating he isn't who he claims to be.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: Unlike the other witches books where there is some sort of overt great magical threat, like The Fair Folk in Lords and Ladies or Lily in Witches Abroad, Maskerade is a murder mystery more akin to the watch books.
  • Fun with Foreign Languages: The Italian... er, Brindisian aria in the opera is about how hard it is for the heroine to leave her beloved. In fact, it quite literally is:
    "This damn door sticks, this damn door sticks
    it sticks no matter what the hell I do
    It is marked 'pull' and indeed I am pulling
    Perhaps it should be marked 'push'?"
    • There's also a fragment from a song in German, "Schneide meinen eigenen Hals" - not translated in the text, but means "cut my own throat". Fans won't be surprised, because the song is called "The Pedlar's Song".
  • Genius Ditz: Christine has all the skills and traits needed to be a legendary opera Diva... save for the actual singing part. Which fortunately isn't all that important nowadays.
  • Genre Savvy: Agnes knows full well that in stories the girl with "a great personality" is not the one who stumbles onto the villain's secret basement lair, but if it was someone like Christine, she'd find it no problem.
  • Godiva Hair: Implied of the portrait of Nanny Ogg as a young woman.
    Nanny Ogg: I wore my hair longer in those days.
    Granny Weatherwax: Just as well, considering.
  • Good Is Not Dumb: Agnes.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Unsurprisingly, Granny Weatherwax. She stitches up the injuries of the muggers who tried to attack her. What she needed was a sharp, fresh needle and some alcohol, but sadly, all she has is a rusty, blunt one and some ditchwater.
    • Walter Plinge's alternative personality known as The Opera Ghost is not a bad person. But he's also brutally honest, and when Granny and Nanny use headology to give him that personality all the time, he's perfectly willing to go along with picking Christine over Agnes.
    Granny (holding up the needle, while a mugger stares at it, whimpering): Now... let's do some good.
  • Good Old Ways: Nobby Nobbs complains about modern policing, where you have to do things like detect and catch people, rather than the old days where you just let criminals run away and didn't try too hard to catch them.
  • Harmful Healing: Granny Weatherwax does this to some injured thugs, involving old sewing supplies that were not intended for stitching people. Granny is Good Is Not Nice. She may have to heal people she doesn't like, but she doesn't have to make it pretty.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: Nanny Ogg's book, The Joy of Snackes. At one point, Granny has to turn it sideways.
  • Hot in Human Form: Greebo.
  • Humanity Ensues: The human-form Greebo the cat from Witches Abroad reappears, first as a gag about how he tends to do it when in a tight corner (thereafter spending most of his brief time as a human desperately looking for a pair of trousers), and a nod to the Discworld shapeshifting concept (once an object/living creature has taken a form, it is much easier to take it again). Later, he's pressed into service as Granny's fake paramour and bodyguard.
  • Hurricane of Puns: In the grand tradition of Moving Pictures and Soul Music, Walter's opera titles are all puns on popular musicals.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The villain gives a long Final Speech about how ridiculous opera conventions like the long Final Speech are. This comes not long after he claims to be the Only Sane Man, using multiple exclamation marks (a sure sign of madness). Oh, and he's not been skewered through the heart - the sword went between arm and body, to make it look like it. The absurdity of this is lampshaded.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Agnes. Or at least, she wants to be able to choose what she wants to stand out for.
  • I Let You Win: Death cannot be beaten at Chess. Or Poker. Or games of chance. People can still challenge him, but unless Death is actively trying to lose, he'll always win no matter what he does. He can, however, engage in some Loophole Abuse by folding to Granny's hand of four queens, because he has "only four ones" - all of which are aces.
  • I'll Never Tell You What I'm Telling You!: Death and the swan.
  • Innocent Soprano: Played with. The cheerful, bubbly, and pretty but unbelievably dim Christine has no singing talent, and in fact only got the main role because her father is one of the opera's backers. Agnes has to sing in her place thanks to her Magic Music talents letting her sing multiple voices at the same time — she can both be in the choir and cover for Christine's tone-deaf "soprano" squeaking.
  • In One Ear, Out The Other: While the actual visual gag itself doesn't happen on page, it is referenced.
    "After you'd kown Christine for any length of time, you found yourself fighting a desire to look into her ear to see if you could spot daylight coming the other way."
  • Insistent Terminology: Granny ask Agnes how many fiddle-players there are in the band. Agnes tells her how many violinists there are in the orchestra. Granny ignores this aspect of the reply as irrelevent.
  • It's All About Me: Christine, not because she's a bad person (she appears to be fond of Agnes/Perdita) but because thanks to her chronically short attention span/lack of brains, she can't really comprehend anything more complex than her own immediate interests. This leads to a strange dichotomy with her being able to pick up stage-tricks like conveniently learning to faint in a dramatic pose whenever something "operatic" happens, but limits her ability to realize that Agnes is pretending to be her voice:
    Christine (to Agnes): Perdita, dear? It did seem to me you were singing the teensiest bit loud, dear! I'm sure it must have been a little difficult for everyone to hear me.
  • The Joy of X: Nanny Ogg's book of rather suggestive recipes. ("Suggestive" in the form of yelling through a megaphone, mind.)
  • Just the Introduction to the Opposites: Black Aliss went so mad that she turned people into gingerbread and had a house made out of frogs.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Plenty, of course, but the stand-out is the end of Salzella's death rant:
    "... and the worst thing about opera is the way everyone takes... such!!! ... a!!!! long!!!!! time!!!!! ... to!!!!! ...argh...argh...argh...." (dies)
  • Large Ham: Christine is this. She has all the qualities of a modern-day prima donna. Modern as in she looks good, is overly dramatic and can faint on cue. As opposed to a traditional prima donna who merely had to have an amazing voice.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Salzella and Bucket agree never to mention their harrowing lunch with Granny Weatherwax again. Understandable, given that they were subject to the full force of Granny Weatherwax while also suffering severely from the effects of Nanny Ogg's aphrodisiac chocolate sauce.
  • Live Mink Coat: Nanny wears her cat around her neck at the opera. Someone later complains that her fur stole is eating their chocolates.
  • Long-Lasting Last Words: The death of opera director Salzella goes on, and on, and on for a long time...
  • Love Potion: The chocolate sauce recipe Nanny Ogg uses in one scene has interesting effects on some of the people who try it. There's nothing magical about it, though, it's merely a powerful natural aphrodisiac.
  • Magic Feather: Walter can't access his Phantom persona without his mask. Eventually, Granny gives him an "invisible mask" so he can be the Phantom all the time.
  • Magic Music: Technically defied on Discworld, according to Nanny Ogg:
    Music and magic had a lot in common. They were only two letters apart, for one. And you couldn't do both.
  • Magic Poker Equation: For the Narrative Causality of the Discworld, a poker game for the life of a young boy is obviously important enough to qualify. That is why Granny draws four queens and Death gets four aces - which he immediately proclaims to be "four ones" and thus the losing hand.
  • Mask of Confidence: The Ghost - the original, Walter Plinge, is not suspected of what he is because without the mask, he acts like an altogether different person.
  • Masquerading As the Unseen: As Granny is quick to lampshade, the only reason people recognize the Ghost is because he wears a mask.
    You can recognize him because he's got a mask on?
  • Meaningful Name:
    • "Walter Plinge" is used as an alias for actors in British theatre cast lists, when it is necessary to avoid spoiling a major plot twist of the Two Aliases, One Character type. The twist here being Walter is one of the characters pretending to be the opera ghost.
    • Salzella (pronounced like “salt seller”) is a reference to Italian composer Antonio Salieri whose surname means "seller of salt"
  • Momma's Boy: Walter Plinge.
  • Motive Rant: Salzella gives one after being revealed before dying.
  • Mr. Fanservice and All Girls Want Bad Boys: Greebo's human form is described as being almost uncontrollably attractive to human women.
  • Mugging the Monster: Subverted; Granny and Mrs. Plinge are threatened by some muggers, but before Granny can open up a can of whup-ass on them, the Ghost does it for her.
  • Mundane Utility: Borrowing is one of Granny's greatest skills in witchcraft, the ability to ride in another being's consciousness, see what it sees, and hear what it hears. At one point, she borrows Nanny Ogg... so she can see herself as she puts her hat back on and adjusts it. Nanny then questions why she doesn't just use a mirror.
  • Never Win the Lottery: Nanny comes into a windfall of several thousand dollars, but most of it ends up getting spent as part of Granny's scheme to straighten out matters at the opera.
  • New Child Left Behind: One of the opera attendees is the unknowing son of Henry Slugg, who'd gotten his girlfriend pregnant before he left the city to make a career as a singer.
  • No Listening Skills: Christine is both dimwitted and self-centered, to the point where Agnes tells her her father is the Emperor of Klatch and her mother is a small tray of raspberry pastries without any of it registering.
  • Noodle Incident: The scene where Nanny Ogg takes over serving drinks during the opera and decides to take some revenge on the demanding customers on behalf of Mrs. Plinge. The narration cuts away as she shakes up a couple of champagne bottles and steps out into the corridor, and picks up again as she ducks into a room while a lot of people run past. What, exactly, she did is never elaborated; some fairly simple scenarios are obvious, but Nanny wouldn't be a witch if she wasn't good at inventive cruelty.
  • Not Listening to Me, Are You?: Agnes does it with Christine:
    "Do tell me about yourself!!"
    "I'm from somewhere up in the mountains you've probably never heard of..."
    She stopped. A light had gone off in Christine's head, and Agnes realized that the question had been asked not because Christine in any way wanted to know the answer but for something to say. She went on: "...and my father is the Emperor of Klatch and my mother is a small tray of raspberry puddings."
    "That's interesting!" said Christine, who was looking at the mirror. "Do you think my hair looks right?!"
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • Commander Vimes does this off-screen. He sends Detritus and Corporal Nobbs to act as "undercover officers" in the last act of the book. The attention on them leaves the real undercover officer, André, free to get on with things. Once she figures it out, Granny is grudgingly impressed.
    • Also Death during his poker hand with Granny for the life of the innkeeper's son; it's implied he knows damn well that 4 aces beats 4 queens, but he figures he can get away with "losing" if he pretends to misunderstand the rules of poker enough to think it's "four ones".
    • The villain has done this to the opera's account books. It looks like it's been slap-dashedly put together by people who don't think money is important, and the owner spends most of the story trying to work out what they were trying to record. When Granny gets time to look at it she realizes that it's been deliberately messed with to hide massive theft; for instance, she finds a page where the columns are misaligned to hide that they don't all have the same number of entries.
    • Possibly Christine. It's very hard to be sure, but when Christine makes sure to scream and faint before anything actually happens, and land in such a fashion that it probably doesn't hurt, Agnes sourly notes that Christine is actually very intelligent in some very specialised ways. Additionally, when Agnes finally gets mad and snaps at her when Christine dismisses her suspicions that Walter is the Ghost, she seems to drop the excitable pixie act for a moment.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted, since the story has a major character named Henry Slugg and a minor one named Henry Lawsy. As it turns out, this isn't a coincidence — it's revealed at the end that Henry Lawsy is actually Henry Slugg's son (whom he never knew he had) and was named after him, although his mother had always told him his dad was Mr. Lawsy the eel juggler.
  • The One Who Made It Out: Opera singer Enrico Basilica grew up in Rookery Yard, in the Shades, where "you could fight your way out, or you could sing your way out" (or you could get out by going through an alley into Shamlegger Street, but no-one came to anything going that way).
  • Only Sane Man: Agnes seems to be the only one thinking sensibly about things at the opera house, which only helps her feel alienated at first.
    • Salzella believed himself to be this: "You don't know what it has been like, I assure you, being the only sane man in this madhouse!!" He's not.
  • Open Secret: King Verence knows Nanny Ogg is brewing her aptly named scumble brand "Suicider", but won't (and can't) get her to stop, so everyone operates on plausible deniability.
  • Painting the Medium: Christine's dialogue always ends in either "!?" or "!!" because she's just that excited about everything. In all other dialogue, multiple exclamation marks are a sign of Sanity Slippage.
  • Pet the Dog: Death allows Granny Weatherwax to beat him at a hand of poker so that he won't have to reap a sick infant.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: One specially made for the dowager duchess of Quirm, that fits Granny perfectly.
  • Raging Stiffie: Salzella and Bucket find it ... awkward ... to leave the table after sampling Nanny's Chocolate Delight with Special Secret Sauce, and when they do depart hurriedly, it's in a very hunched manner. Interestingly, it doesn't seem to have the same effect on Enrico Basilica, possibly because being face-deep in chocolate sauce has a deeper effect on him than the sauce's aphrodisiac effects normally have on people - though Granny speculates that it hasn't had any effect "on account of not touching the sides."
  • Reading Tea Leaves: The witches get involved when Nanny Ogg reads Mrs Nitt's tea leaves to tell her how Agnes is getting on, and sees a clear image of the Ghost's mask. Which is something of a surprise to her, as the witches don't believe reading tea leaves actually works.
  • Red Herring: André's suspicious behaviour rouses in the reader the suspicion that he might be the Ghost, until it's revealed that he is a policeman.
  • The Reliable One: Agnes Nitt. Who quietly hates being the sensible one who keeps her head in a crisis but gets no credit for sorting it out.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Well, the reason opera sucks, anyway. In a final touch of irony, he epitomizes several operatic tropes which have already been pointed out in universe as things he hates.
  • Reincarnated as a Non-Humanoid: The opera house's rat catcher is reincarnated as a rat upon his death. Because, as the Death of Rats tells him, REINCARNATION BELIEVES IN YOU.
  • Retcon: This is the only Discworld book that runs on the rule that (ordinary) iron cannot be magicked (there are many examples of it being magicked in other books, and in Witches Abroad Nanny specifically notes that they can't magic a lock open because it's octiron).
    • There is a mention in Wyrd Sisters as well; Nanny can't magic the torture implements that are made of iron. It's also often been indicated that witch magic is much better at affecting things that are or once were alive, such as wood, than metal.
  • Running Gag: Nanny Ogg's conservatory.
  • Secret Police: The Cable Street Particulars are described as "secret police for secret crimes". However, they don't fit in with the usual definition (and indeed the definition they did once fit before Vimes was Commander). The one depicted is better described as an undercover detective.
  • Self-Made Man: Mr. Bucket is described as "a self-made man who is proud of his handiwork."
  • Shout-Out:
    • A line early on from someone working in a printing press mentions that they accidentally printed "famine" with seven letters, a reference to a misprint from Good Omens in which the character Famine is described as signing his name with seven letters.
    • Granny Weatherwax's observation, on arriving at Mrs. Palm's house, that Colette is wearing some very interesting earrings is an allusion to a prominent Pratchett fan, Colette Reap, who once attended a signing event wearing Ankh earrings.
    • "Walter Plinge" is a real-life pseudonym used by actors who don't want to be associated with early minor parts (similar to "A.N. Other") and the character's description clearly evokes Frank Spencer from Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em (Michael Crawford, the first actor who played the musical version's Phantom, was once best known for that role).
      • His description also somewhat evokes a young Andrew Lloyd Webber, as does his creation of the modern musical, particularly the Disc's version of Cats.
    • The troll name for Granny Weatherwax ("She Who Must Be Avoided") is a reference to the H. Rider Haggard novel She and the eponymous character "She Who Must Be Obeyed".
    • Death's All I have is four ones. could be a reference to the Bugs Bunny cartoon Barbary Coast Bunny, featuring Bugs lamenting in a game of poker that he only has 'a pair of ones... and another pair of ones.'
    • Granny ain't got time to bleed, or at least, not until later.
    • Also, all the opera names. La Triviata for La Traviata, The Ring of the Nibelungingung for The Ring of the Nibelung, Il Truccatore for Il Trovatore and so on.
    • Later, Walter invents the modern musical and Nanny sees some of his ideas, such as an opera about cats, Miserable Les and Seven Dwarfs For Seven Other Dwarfs.
    • Greebo, looking very scary because his human form is starting to revert, leaps onto a waiting coach and tells the driver to "Get orff".
    • Mrs Lawsey would rather be at the music hall listening to Nellie Stamp sing "She Sits Among the Cabbages and Leeks". This is a reference to an urban legend that Marie Lloyd had a song which was originally "She Sits Among the Cabbages and Peas", but was changed to "Leeks" when Moral Guardians objected to the double meaning (but not, you will note, to actually remove that meaning in any way).
  • Situational Sociability: The Opera Ghost behaves very different when he's acting as the Ghost rather than as his real identity, due to the mask and identity of the Ghost giving him a confidence he otherwise lacks. Some Headology by Granny Weatherax later in the book allows him to be the "Ghost" all the time.
  • Super-Scream: Frustrated and finally sick of the hypocrisy of the opera house, Agnes lets out a scream so high she breaks glass, splinters wood, distorts metal and just generally does a good deal of damage to the building. At which point, Nanny remarks that it's now all over - as in, "it's not over until the fat lady sings."
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: As it turns out, Agnes helping catch the theatre ghost and the truth about how she's the true vocal talent instead of Christine coming out into the open is not going to mean that she's going to get rewarded for it. Life isn't fair, and they're going to do what's best for the bottom line.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Everyone in the opera wonders how the Ghost gets into Box Eight every night, despite the fact that the door is kept locked and they can't find any other way in. The witches come up with an explanation that they'd never considered: he has the key.
    • They're also the first to consider there might be two Ghosts in the first place. "You recognized him because he'd got a mask on?"
  • Stealth Pun:
    • When Agnes finishes one last scream, going from one side of the audible spectrum to the other, Nanny Ogg remarks "Now it's over". Agnes is very large, and they're in an opera.
    • After Salzella's demise, Death comes to collect him. However, unlike his other appearances, he is bedecked much like the Phantom of the Opera in the masquerade scene of the book: dressed as the Red Death. It also includes a cartoonishly unnecessary paper mask of a skull. But one must suppose you have to put a Masque on a Red Death.
    • Nanny Ogg's boy Nev is (despite her protestations to the contrary) a thief. Or con man. Or fiddler. And in the wide, wonderful world of Discworld opera, where does he hang out? On the roof.
    • The romantic aria Agnes learns about how hard it is for a character to leave her lover turns out, when translated, to have lyrics that go "this damn door sticks/it sticks no matter what the hell I do". Which disappoints Agnes, but hey, that would make it hard to leave.
  • Take That!: A... probably friendly jibe at the publishing industry in the form of Mr Goatberger, who "dreamed the dream of all who publish books, which was to have so much gold in your pockets that you would need to employ two people just to hold your trousers up". He is confused and shocked at the suggestion that he should give Nanny a share of the profits from her book — as far as he's concerned, authors should pay for the privilege of having their work published, even though he's the one who goes on to sell them.
    I don't know, authors wanting to be paid, good grief...
  • Theatre Phantom: Maskerade is the Discworld's take on The Phantom of the Opera, with the mysterious 'Opera Ghost' haunting the Ankh-Morpork Opera House. Ultimately there turns out to be two different Opera Ghosts.
  • This Is My Name on Foreign: Henry Slugg becomes Enrico Basilica.
  • This Is Reality: When it's revealed near the end that Henry Slugg's old flame is in the audience (and he's the father of her son), Agnes complains loudly that that sort of thing does not happen in real life. The rather more Genre Savvy Nanny Ogg replies "Happens all the time in opera."
  • Through His Stomach: Despite Nanny Ogg's proclamation that this is silly advice unless one is instructing someone how to stab a person, her "Joy of Snackes" works very well for this route; it's full of aphrodisiacs and Love Potions.
  • True Beauty Is on the Inside: Painfully subverted. In the end, despite the fact that Christine is just very pretty, has no singing voice, or indeed any talent whatsoever, everyone in the opera still fawns over her and chooses her over Agnes, who is incredibly talented and who has been singing Christine's songs the entire time (something that is made very clear by the end that everyone knows).
    André: It'd be terrible if anything happened to [Christine] (in the aftermath of her 'fainting' again), everyone says she shows such promise.
    Agnes: Yes, but... you know it was me doing the singing.
    André: Oh, yes... yes, of course... but... well... this is opera... you know...
    Agnes (to Walter): But it was me you taught!
    Walter: Then you were very good. I suspect she will never be quite that good, even with many months of my tuition. But, Perdita, have you ever heard of the words "star quality"?
    Agnes: Is it the same as talent?
    Walter: It is rarer.
    • It gets lampshaded earlier in the book, when Agnes thinks to herself that nobody's ever fallen in love because of a wonderful pair of kidneys.
  • Tuckerization: Colette, of the "fascinatin' earrings" is based on Fandom VIP and convention organizer Colette Reap, who once wore a pair of Clairecraft Anorankh pins as earrings to a signing.
  • Undercover Cop Reveal: Andre.
  • Villainous Underdog: Salzella is really just a guy, and he's going up against a pair of witches who were last seen sending the Fair Folk packing. The only thing saving him when he's found out and confronted at the end is exactly because he's not a terrifying magical menace, Granny considers it wrong for her to fight him directly.
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: Played with incessantly. An earlier statement in Reaper Man that "five exclamation marks are the sure sign of a diseased mind" is expanded on here, to the point where a character's ongoing descent into madness is marked by the number of exclamation marks after his statements. When he hits five, he's gone over the edge.
  • Wham Line: Granny's "Who's to say there's only one Ghost?"
    • And shortly before that, André's reveal:
      André: I...hang around in dark places looking for trouble.
      Granny: Really? There's a nasty name for people like that.
      André: Yes. It's "policeman".
  • The Worst Seat in the House: Spoofed, when Nanny and Granny trade in tickets for the Stalls for ones up in the Gods due to the name. Though the truly worst seat is probably the one next to Nanny Ogg.
  • "X" Makes Anything Cool: Apparently the X in Perdita X. Dream stands for "Someone who has a cool and exciting middle initial".