APF Chapter 3: Discworld Annotations [Prev Page] [Index] [Next Page]

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Maskerade

Annotations | Information | Quotes

- Maskerade, as a parody of The Phantom of the Opera, is based largely upon the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, but makes the events and characters more realistic. Hence, in Phantom, Christine is the beautiful, slim, new star, with a good voice that needs training, holding back and reluctant to take her rightful place in the opera. Carlotta is the jealous prima donna, with a classical voice on the verge of decreptitude, and large lungs. The Phantom wants Christine to sing, and the owners would be happy to oblige, but for the need to keep Carlotta's ego assuaged.

In Maskerade, Christine can't sing, but looks pretty, so both the owners and the Phantom fall for her. Agnes, with the voice, is merely utilised.

- [p. 11] "'We're going to have to get Mr Cripslock to engrave page 11 again,' he said mournfully. 'He's spelt "famine" with seven letters --'"

A reference to the celebrated 'famine' error in the Corgi paperback edition of Good Omens. See the annotation for p. 154/98 of Good Omens .

- [p. 12] "'Well, my old granny used to make Spotted Dick --'"

See the annotation for p. 88/77 of Witches Abroad .

- [p. 28] "'Cosi fan Hita,' she read. 'Die Meistersinger von Scrote.'"

I am almost completely ignorant on the subject of operas, but the titles Terry parodies in Maskerade are so well-known that even I had no problem figuring out the originals. With that in mind I really didn't intend to annotate them, but so far nearly everybody who has sent in annotations for Maskerade has mentioned the opera titles, and I fear very much that if I don't include them now I will continue to get tons of mail about it.

So: Cosi fan Hita is Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, and Die Meistersinger von Scrote is Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.

- [p. 32] "She at least respected anyone's right to recreate themselves."

As does Terry himself -- see the annotation for p. 20/15 of Soul Music .

- [p. 36] "'The Joye of Snacks,' she read out loud."

The pun on The Joy of Sex is obvious, but what not everybody may know is that the title of that book, in turn, was inspired by an earlier popular book called The Joy of Cooking.

- [p. 42] "'That's why they never sell tickets for Box Eight, didn't you know?!'"

In the Phantom, the Phantom's box is Box Five, and it's out of fear that they don't sell tickets for it. On the Discworld we have seen before that important numbers tend to gravitate towards 8, and it's luck (far more appropriate in opera) that prevents the sale of tickets.

- [p. 43] "'That looks like an accident waiting to happen if I ever saw one,' she mumbled."

In the Phantom, one of the most spectacular and well-publicised special effects is the crashing of the chandelier onto the stage, at the end of act 1. This occurs when Christine and Raoul secretly pledge their love for each other, which the Phantom overhears.

- [p. 47] "'It's white bone! He has no nose!' [...] 'Then how does he --' Agnes began."

From the old joke, made famous by Monty Python's "The funniest joke in the world" sketch:

-- My dog has no nose.
-- How does he smell?
-- Terrible.

And yes, I know this joke isn't the one that the sketch is named after. The funniest joke in the world (which, in the German translation, eventually enabled the British to win World War II) goes: "Wenn ist das Nunstuck git und Slotermeyer? Ja! Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput!"

- [p. 56] "'Schneide meinen eigenen Hals --'"

German for: "Cut My Own Throat".

- [p. 92] "'At least stand on tiptoe!' he shouted. 'You probably cost me a dollar just running up here!'"

It is precisely standing on tiptoe that wears out ballet shoes so quickly.

+ [p. 93] "'[...] flush him out, chase him through the city, catch him and beat him to a pulp, and then throw what's left into the river. It's the only way to be sure.'"

Resonates with the famous murder of Rasputin, as well as with the scene in the movie Aliens, where Ripley says: "I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

- [p. 97] "[...] tonight's production of La Triviata."

Verdi's La Traviata.

- [p. 97] "'What in fact we would like you to do... Perdita... is sing the role, indeed, but not, in fact... play the role.'"

This will sound familiar to anyone who has ever seen Singing in the Rain, or knows any of the many other stories where this plot device is used. Terry says:

"The idea of an understudy doing all the work for the star is probably a common film cliché. I don't recall it in any film about music, but now I come to think of it there was a Fred Astaire film where he dances instead of the star of the show (wearing a mask... I didn't say it was a good movie). But the basis of the Agnes/Christine thing lies not in any movie but in real life. It has happened. My sources tell me that stars have gone on stage jetlagged or stricken with a sore throat and someone has been put behind them in the chorus to sing the role. I believe there has even been at least one case where the prompter (in the box in front of the stage) has tried to jump-start the dumbstruck star with the first few words of the song and ended up singing it all the way through. It's not a big step to go from that to the setup in Maskerade."

- [p. 98] "[...] a revival of The Ring of the Nibelungingung"

Wagner's opera is called 'The Ring of the Nibelung', or in German: 'Der Ring des Nibelungen'.

- [p. 99] "'Hello Colette,' said Granny. 'What fascinatin' earrings you are wearing.'"

Now this is an annotation that is going to need some explaining. The short version of the story is as follows:

Colette is Colette Reap, a long-time a.f.p. regular, who impressed Terry by attending a book signing wearing earrings made out of Clarecraft's anorankhs.

The longer version goes as follows:

Clarecraft is a company that sells highly popular handcrafted Discworld miniatures and jewellery. Information on Clarecraft can be found in the Discworld Merchandise FAQ, available from the Pratchett Archives.

One particular item of jewellery they sell is the anorankh, a small model of an Egyptian cross wearing an anorak. (Don't ask -- but in case you think you want to know: the precise story of how the anorankh came into existence can be found in the Holy Anorankh file, also available from the Pratchett Archives.)

Meanwhile, over on alt.fan.pratchett, it became, for some reason, standard practice for the male readers of the group to propose marriage (often all of them at the same time) to female readers. Colette, our resident net.goddess and therefore one of the most 'visible' females on the group, was one of the most popular proposal targets. (For more detailed information about marriage proposals and other characteristic a.f.p. habits, see the A.f.p. Timeline file, also available from -- you guessed it -- the Pratchett Archives.)

With all this background information in mind, I'll let Colette herself tell the rest of the story:

"The interesting earrings thing comes from when I went to the Discworld Companion signing in central London in May 1994. The signing was at lunch-time on a weekday and I was going to see our main computer supplier in the afternoon so I was fairly smartly dressed, but I was wearing my anorankh earrings, which Terry suddenly noticed while I was standing in front of him getting my book signed, and it was the first time he'd seen them made into earrings.

On 31st December 1994, completely out of the blue, I got an email from Terry. In it he said he was doing the polishing draft of Maskerade and which of the following two characters would I like to be called Colette -- the make-up girl at the Opera House, or one of the 'young ladies' at Mrs. Palm's and that mention might be made of her interesting earrings. When I had picked myself up off the floor, and being the mischievous soul that I am, I wrote back to Terry and asked if Colette could be one of the 'young ladies' at Mrs. Palm's, explaining that I felt that such a 'young lady' would be much more likely not only to wear interesting earrings, but also to receive lots of marriage proposals from men she hardly knew.

When I got my copy of Maskerade signed, Terry wrote in it 'What's a nice girl like you doing in a book like this?' -- a dedication in the same league as that which he wrote when he signed my Discworld game booklet, which was 'To Colette, Will you marry me?'"

- [p. 99] "'What? You've been here before?' said Nanny, [...]"

Granny met Mrs Palm during her earlier stay in Ankh-Morpork. See the annotation for p. 121/119 in Equal Rites.

- [p. 123] "'They beat him to death!' [...] 'And they throw him into the river!'"

This is how the silent movie version of The Phantom of the Opera ends.

+ [p. 126] "'Walter's your son?' said Granny. 'Wears a beret?'"

A nice bit of foreshadowing here: 'Walter Plinge' is a generic pseudonym often used in the theatre world by an actor who has two different roles in the same play.

Many people have also spotted that the description Terry gives of Walter Plinge -- beret, brown coat, nervousness, clumsy -- is very similar to that of Frank Spencer, the lead character in the British television comedy Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em. Frank Spencer was played by Michael Crawford, who went on to become truly famous as the original... Phantom of the Opera in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical. When asked about this, Terry said:

"I certainly wanted Walter to be a superficially Frank Spencer character, although he's a lot sadder and clearly a few bricks short of a shilling, as Nanny Ogg would say.

I was just amused at the way Michael Crawford, a man known to the UK as someone who played a hapless berk in a black beret, suddenly emerged as the suave Phantom."

- [p. 138] Grand Guignol

See the annotation for p. 239/172 of Lords and Ladies .

- [p. 149] "Let us examine the role of Laura in Il Truccatore -- "The Master Of Disguise", also sometimes vulgarly known as "The Man with a Thousand Faces"...'"

The Man with a Thousand Faces was the nickname given to Lon Chaney, the actor who played the Phantom of the Opera in the original silent Hollywood production.

- [p. 165] "'Madam has marvellous hair,' said the hairdresser. 'What is the secret?' 'You've got to make sure there's no newts in the water,' said Granny."

This echoes back to the quote in Reaper Man:

"People have believed for hundreds of years that newts in a well mean that the water's fresh and drinkable, and in all that time never asked themselves whether the newts got out to go to the lavatory."

- [p. 225] "[...] while muttering, 'Rhubarb, rhubarb.'"

Apparently, this is something actors traditionally mutter on stage when they are meant to appear to be talking amongst themselves in the background.

- [p. 231] "'Well I think,' said Nobby, 'that when you have ruled out the impossible, what is left, however improbable, ain't worth hanging around on a cold night wonderin' about when you could be getting on the outside of a big drink.'"

Sherlock Holmes. See the annotation for p. 118/108 of Guards! Guards! .

- [p. 232] Opera names.

The Barber of Pseudopolis = The Barber of Seville
The Enchanted Piccolo = The Magic Flute

- [p. 233] Musical names.

'Guys and Trolls' is 'Guys and Dolls', 'Hubwards Side Story' is 'West Side Story', 'Miserable Les' is 'Les Miserables', and 'Seven Dwarfs for Seven Other Dwarfs' is 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers'.

Note how the last name harks back to Terry's earlier comments on the difficulties of dwarf mating.

- [p. 247] "'Says here "Cable Street Particulars"...'"

A reference to Conan Doyle's Baker Street Irregulars. See also the entry for the City Watch in The Discworld Companion.

- [p. 257] "[...] as the opening bars of the duet began, opened her mouth -- 'Stop right there!'"

A strong resonance with Ellen Foley's character refusing to continue the duet 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light' with Meatloaf halfway through the song:

Stop right there!
I gotta know right now
Before we go any further
Do you love me? Will you love me forever?

- [p. 270] "'Don't cry for me, Genua.'"

'Don't cry for me, Argentina', is the famous ballad from the musical Evita.

+ [p. 276] "Nanny grinned. 'Ah,' she said, 'Now the opera's over.'"

Because, as the saying goes, the opera ain't over until the fat lady sings...

+ [p. 276] "He wore red: a red suit with red lace, a red cloak, [...]"

Death dressing up for Salzella makes a nice finishing touch to the whole 'masquerade' theme of the book. It resonates with the Phantom of the Opera musical where the Phantom gatecrashes a party "dressed all in crimson, with a death's head visible inside the hood of his robe", and both scenes in turn evoke Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red Death (see also the annotation for p. 26/26 of The Light Fantastic ).


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