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 Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical 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 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.
Contains examples of:
- Adorkable: Walter Plinge
- Alan Smithee: "Walter Plinge" is used as a pseudonym in the playbill for actors playing multiple parts in a show. The real life Walter Plinge was said to be a pub owner in London who a group of actors honored by using his name in this manner.
- Arbitrary Skepticism: Throughout the book, Granny criticizes people for not being this, assuming that she uses magic to block a sword when she may well have had a bit of metal in her palm. As it happens, she did use magic (though she only used magic to delay it. The sword still hurt her, but not at such a critical time, both practically and for appearances), but that's not the point. Another example is a man assuming she used magic to know it was him at the door (which in fact she had) when she had a window.
- 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!"
- 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: Former Trope Namer 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 girl who calls herself Perditax".
- 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.
- Barehanded Blade Block: Granny pulls this at the very end when she blocks Salzella's sword, but it carries a price - she has to allow the hand to become injured afterward.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Nanny Ogg, "a mind like a buzzsaw behind a face like an eldery apple". Sharp remarks from her are described like 'being bitten by a friendly dog'.
- 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.
Granny (holding up the needle, while a mugger stares at it, whimpering): Now... let's do some good.
- Big Eater: Henry Slugg.
- 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.
- Brainless Beauty: Christine.
- 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. She also fixes his arm bones for him with chiropractic.
- Although there is also the implication that he was simply scared of her. She admits that, if she had lost, the first thing she would have done would be to break his arm.
- There's also the fact that he says that his hand was a pair of "ones." As in aces.
- Contest Winner Cameo: Collette.
- 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 a new Carter son named after a vice, Deviousness Carter.
- Born in the Wrong Century: It's said that Agnes was born 20 years to late, back when your voice mattered more than your looks and everyone had a build like her, were every one of the greats had names that were puns for how fat they were.
- Contrived Coincidence: Played for laughs when someone's long-lost love shows up at the very end, with no real impact on the plot. Hey, that's how opera works.
- Corpsing: A blink-and-you'll-miss-it subversion towards the end, when Andre, the Cable Street Particular who'd been investigating the goings-on at the opera house, mentions that Salzella's cooling body needs to be dealt with.
- 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 Dead Baby Comedy.
- The Ditz: Christine
- 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.
- Estrogen Brigade Bait and All Girls Want Bad Boys: Greebo's human form.
- 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.
- Falling Chandelier of Doom: Subverted. Everyone says that the chandelier is an accident waiting to happen. But despite the villain's best efforts, 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".
- Flynning: Shown and mentioned between the two ghosts, until it becomes deadly real.
- Except, in true Discworld fashion, they're still just Flynning.
- 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?"
- Good Is Not Dumb: Agnes.
- Head-Tiltingly Kinky: The Joy of Snackes.
- Humanity Ensues: The human-form Greebo the cat from Witches Abroad reappears, 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).
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Agnes
- It's All About Me: Christine, not because she's a bad person but because 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 signing the teensiest bit loud, dear! I'm sure it must have been a little difficult for everyone to hear me.
- I'll Never Tell You What I'm Telling You: Death and the swan.
- Lampshade Hanging: Plenty, of course, but the stand-out is the end of Salzella's death rant:
- Momma's Boy: Walter Plinge.
- Motive Rant
- 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.
- Not Listening to Me, Are You?
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Commander Vimes does this off-screen. He sends Detritus and Corporal Nobb 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.
- 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!!"
- Painting the Fourth Wall: 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.
- Perdita X Dream: The former Trope Namer.
- Pimped-Out Dress: One specially made for the dowager duchess of Quirm, that fits Granny perfectly.
- Self-Made Man: Mr Bucket is described as 'a self-made man who is proud of his handiwork.'
- Shout-Out: "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).
- 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".
- 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.
- This Is My Name on Foreign: Henry Slugg becomes Enrico Basilica.
- True Beauty Is on the Inside: painfully subverted. In the end, despite the fact that Christine is just very pretty, has no voice, and has absolutely no talent whatsoever, everyone in the opera still fawns over her and chooses her over Agnes, who is incredibly talented and who has been signing 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 signing.
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.
- Tuckerization: Colette, of the "fascinatin' earrings" is based on Big Name Fan and convention organizer Colette Reap, who once wore a pair of Clairecraft Anorankh pins as earrings to a signing.
- Stealth Pun: When Agnes finishes one last yell, 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.
- Undercover Cop Reveal
- 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 The Reveal:
André: I...go poking around in the dark, looking for trouble.
Granny: Really? There's a word 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.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: Apparently the X in Perdita X Dream stands for "Someone who has a cool and exciting middle initial".