Terry Pratchett's satirical eye doesn't spare anybody or anything, and in his nineteenth Discworld book "Maskerade," it's opera's turn to suffer. In his typically barbed prose, he gleefully spoofs the "Phantom of the Opera," lampoons opera in general, and takes the opportunity to take everyone's favorite witches out to Ankh-Morpork.
Magrat Garlick is newly married and crowned. As a result, Granny Weatherwax is moody and bored, while Nanny pens an erotic cookbook -- and when it turns out that she's being cheated of royalties, Granny decides to go to Ankh-Morpork and confront her publisher. Meanwhile, the primary witch-maiden candidate, Agnes Nitt, has also gone to Ankh-Morpork to become an opera singer.
But the opera isn't all it's cracked up to be -- Agnes finds herself providing the voice for pretty, airheaded Christine, and the opera ghost is causing some major disasters. Granny and Nanny immerse themselves in the backstage -- and onstage -- drama of the opera, trying to figure out who the Phantom is... and why he's a friend one minute and a foe the next.
It's obvious that the opera holds no awe for Pratchett. Sure, the novel is a spoof of Gaston Leroux's novel, but Pratchett's real intention here is to constantly make fun of the opera, both as entertainment and art form. The entire climax of the book is devoted to making fun of opera's illogic, lack of acting, and such time-honored traditions as a dying person flawlessly singing for about fifteen minutes before expiring.
But it's not all opera spoofery. Despite some grisly deaths and the psycho Phantom (who sends notes filled with maniacal laughter), getting the witches out of Lancre gives the whole story a light, fun feel. It has some darker scenes, such as Granny playing cards with Death for a baby's life, but most of it is dedicated to the witches doing the sort of weird things they'd never do at home (impersonating duchesses, for one).
Pratchett sprinkles the storyline with hilarious dialogue, wacky situations (Nanny Ogg moonlights as the world's fattest ballerina), and some swashbuckling. And he includes a small message as well, about being the sort of person we actually want to be -- and how "masks" on the outside can change us.
Agnes Nitt has a lot of pagetime, but she seems rather fussy and pallid next to Granny and Nanny -- we get to see just how strong their friendship really is, despite their bickering. Granny shines especially, courtesy of a shopping spree, some coach rides and some dodgy darkish magic. And we have a wide array of timid janitors, annoying managers and airheaded sopranos to round out the cast.
"Maskerade" is a gleeful, glorious spoof of opera in general, and a fun outing for the Lancre witches. Definitely a solid entry for Pratchett.
on August 24, 2001
If you've never heard of Terry Pratchett, you're clearly living on the wrong planet. So join the rest of us in Pratchett's Discworld and enjoy the antics of Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, the Disc's best-known witches. Visit Ankh-Morpork's Opera House with them (accompanied by their lunatic guests). You'll marvel at the amazing scenes of chaos that Pratchett can conjure up, seemingly without trying. And no matter what the topic, Pratchett is able to satirize it and make you question your former opinions - and you'll howl with laughter as you do so. I've read quite a lot of Discworld books and there are not many that have not held a chuckle a page and a full belly laugh a chapter. Maskerade lives up to its author's reputation in full, satirizing opera, theatre production, the lot - and all with a smile on his face. If, after reading Maskerade, you are in any doubt that Terry Prachett is not the most creative and funniest contemporary author around, you've obviously got a funny bone missing somewhere. Although it is not his best work, Maskerade is still hilarious and well worthy of five stars.
on May 9, 2001
Mid-level Pratchett, not up there with INTERESTING TIMES or down there with ERIC. The somewhat claustrophobic action takes place entirely in the Ankh-Morpork Opera House, and Pratchett is mainly out to satirize opera, opera singers, and opera lovers, as well as all the variants of Gaston Leroux's PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. The hard-to-take Granny Weatherwax dominates the action, what little there is of it. The ostensible main character, "Perdita X Dream" as she calls herself, never comes to life for a second, or has much of anything to do in the novel's development.
There are walkons from several Discworld regulars, such as Nobby and the Librarian, but by and large this really isn't a Discworld novel--- that is, it could take place anywhere. It is difficult to figure out how Pratchett wants the reader to take some of the humor, and some of the apparently serious moments. For example the villain has a long, operatic death scene in which he berates opera virulently, in a perfectly straight tone. Is he speaking for Pratchett? Apparently so, since the omniscient authorial remarks about opera are in pretty much the same style.
Anyway, Pratchett is clearly having some fun with opera and it is unfortunate that the reader is not likely to have quite the same level of fun, to say the least.
on March 2, 2001
Being a big fan of humorous fantasy, I've been in love with Terry Pratchett's Discworld almost from the moment I began reading it. I adore Nanny Ogg and Greebo, Granny Weatherwax (to a lesser extent), Rincewind, the Bursar, the Librarian, and Death above all. So it's really not much surprise that I loved this book.
I think, though, that not only does it stand out among comedic fantasy books as all Discworld novels do, but it also stands out among Discworld novels! For all that I don't know opera or Phantom, the jokes I did understand had me rolling, and the idea of Nanny Ogg writing a cookbook is so priceless that it would have earned the book four stars all on its own. Toss in the translation of an opera verse and the little notes of maniacal laughter, and you've got enough funny stuff to leave a person gasping for breath between snickers.
However, it's a valid point to say that this is a story that's probably much funnier if you have some passing knowledge of opera and Phantom; I had the feeling that I was missing out on chunks of it, and really, the plot with Agnes wasn't very riveting. I thought the jokes I did understand more than made up for it, but that's a question of personal taste. This is still one of the Discworld novels that requires the most background knowledge to make most of its hits; it seems full of in jokes, and if you're bugged by that sort of thing, you might want to try a different slice of the Discworld pie instead.
Pratchett has an outstanding capacity to research a topic, then present his findings with peerless clarity and wit. This book presents so many aspects of theatre production, operatic lore and, amazingly, book publication they're nearly overwhelming. His prose and humour leave us breathless with mirth and astonishment. Still, one has to wonder what motivated the writing of Maskarade. It's a departure from previous Discworld efforts.
Magrat Garlick's married and out of the coven. This imbalance must be restored. Her potential replacement is a new Pratchett character, Agnes Nitt. Agnes, however, has a different career in mind. She wants to be a diva in the opera troupe in Ankh-Morpork. A lofty ambition, indeed. And a voice lofty enough to project throughout the hall - right up to the loft, in fact.
As always, the opera business is fraught with problems. Underpaid [and underfed] choir girls, prima donnas who consider their voice grander than its quality justifies, eccentric crew, and the ever present issue of money. Oh yes, and there's a ghost - with a reserved box seat.
If the Ankh-Morpork's opera team wasn't having enough to deal with, they are about to be confronted with the remnants of Lancre's witches' coven, Esme Weatherwax and Gytha Ogg. Nanny Ogg's become the Julia Childs of the Ramtops, but with variations on a particular theme. She's published a book about it, but Granny Weatherwax isn't convinced the payment justified. Esme Weatherwax as an author's agent is a formidable figure. As if this transformation wasn't enough, she also becomes a patron of opera.
Pratchett's gone slightly awry from his usual path with this book. He raises a host of pretty serious questions with the characters and the plot. It's still in the best of PTerry's style - his wit through the persona of Granny and Nanny Ogg has, if anything, improved. But there are some issues uncommon in Discworld books, and the reader is left more than just entertained. There's some post-laughter thinking required of the reader. Opera is, after all, serious business.
on June 17, 2000
I liked this book, but can see where everyone might not. First off the basic plot is that Perdita X Nitt (nee Agnes Nitt) Has decided to go to the big city to seek her fortune as a singer. She has a singular talent, however of being able to accompany herself. She auditions at the Opera House in Ankh Morpork and is hired along with the beautiful Christine who can sing only passably but has certain other assets (as does her father - a benefactor of the opera) which the new owner find pleasant to comtemplate.
In the meantime Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax have decided they need a 3rd witch and Agnes would do. The decide to go to the city to just "check up" on her. They become embroiled in the "ghost of the Opera" legend and succeed in thwarting an evil plot while having a great deal of fun with Nanny Ogg's hard earned money. Just remember it ends like most opera.
I liked this novel, but then I love opera. I also have seen almost every variation of the Phantom of the Opera ever made (except the musical). The problem is that for some of the humor, the reader must have some knowledge of Opera and it's performers to understand the parody. While I love it, I understand that it is not for everyone. There is enough humor for the non afficiando not everyone will neccesarily find it hilarious.
on January 15, 1997
Maskerade is yet another Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett,
although the only binding elements to the Discworld are place
names, the Ramtops and Ankh/Morpork, and a few beloved characters.
The witches, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg (with Greebo the cat),
being the main characters. Oh yes, Death puts in some cameo appearances.
Apart from this, the story could be any fantasy setting.
Pratchett is, once again, extremely witty, making me laugh out
loud several times. The plot is not, perhaps, very original; being
an obvious satire of the Phantom of the Opera, but it has enough
of a Pratchett twist to keep you reading. A who-dunnit Phantom?
One drawback of the book is that the author assumes a knowledge
of the Discworld's magic, anyway how the witch's magig works,
and to a much lesser extent the geography. While this will
probably not lessen a first time readers enjoyment very much,
it will perhaps make for some puzzling passages.
While perhaps not as inventive as his other Discworld novels,
such as Lords and Ladies, it is still very good and extremely
PS: I missed the footnote jokes present in Pratchett's
on February 10, 2001
I have to confess that, although I love Pratchett's books and the Discworld generally, I found this the weakest book of the series. Maybe it's because I'm not an opera buff, maybe because the story is not a quintessentially Discworld one (apart from the names and histories of the main characters, the story could take place almost anywhere), maybe because I prefer the Guards to the Witches, or maybe it's just my taste but I just didn't find this as funny or enthralling as his previous books.
Pratchett certainly picked up again later and his most recent books are brilliant, but I found the series ebbed a bit here. If, like me, you're reading them all in order (I have, since "Colour of Magic" first came out), then stick with them. If not, make sure you have "Pyramids", "Small Gods", "Guards Guards", "Mort" or "Wyrd Sisters" around to read after this one.
on September 5, 2000
Wonderful. Superb. Splendid. Magnificent. Operatic -- well, maybe not the last one. Maskerade is a work of art -- a work of wit, no less. Terry Pratchett is once again a master of the written word. Any fan of Pterry, Discworld, opera, musical theatre (I esp. loved when Nanny Ogg found the musical scripts!), Phantom of the Opera, and in fact, pretty much anything else will love this book. Creative, witty, satirical, and side-splitting. I laughed the whole way through. My only regret is that the only recognisable characters were Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax (oh, and Greebo. And a cameo Death). Not that they're bad -- au contraire -- but the wizards of UU are also very funny. Also... what happened to the footnotes? I've always enjoyed them in the other Discworld books. But that's a brief flaw -- overall, Maskerade is a genius' masterpiece, proving Pterry's brilliance once again.
on April 4, 1999
Sergei Rachmaninov once wrote words to the following effect: "When I wrote my first symphony, the critics all said it was so-so. When I wrote my seconds the critics said that my first was good, but my second was so-so. When I wrote my third, the critics said that my first two were good, but that this one was so-so."
All of Rachmaninov's symphonies are, in fact, so-so. The critics' instincts were right while their memories were wrong. I now know my instincts about Pratchett's books are right, while my memory is not to be trusted at all. They're ALL relentlessly middlebrow. How the illusion that I was perpetually unlucky with the one I happened to be reading at the moment was maintained, I have no idea. But I finally woke up with "Maskerade".