[Two witches are visiting a dress shop in Ankh-Morpork, prior to a visit to the opera]
‘My friend here wants a new dress,’ said the dumpier of the two. ‘One of the nobby ones with a train and a padded bum.’
‘In black,’ said the thin one.
‘And we wants all the trimmings,’ said the dumpy one. ‘Little handbag onna string, pair of glasses onna stick, the whole thing.’
Madame Dawning [said] ‘This is rather a select dress shop.’
‘That’s why we’re here. We don’t want rubbish. My name’s Nanny Ogg and this here is … Lady Esmerelda Weatherwax.’…
The dress was black. At least, in theory it was black. It was black in the same way that a starling’s wing is black. It was black silk, with jet beads and sequins. It was black on holiday.
‘It looks about my size. We’ll take it… And now we’ll go back into the shop and have a poke around for the other stuff,’ said Lady Esmerelda. ‘I fancy ostrich feathers myself. And one of those big cloaks the ladies wear. And one of those fans edged with lace.’
‘Why don’t we get some great big diamonds while we’re about it?’ said Nanny Ogg sharply.
observations: It would take a long time to explain what Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax are planning at the opera tonight: the best thing is to read the book. In this entry on another of his books, we explain why Terry Pratchett is so good, and so worth reading.
Maskerade is a wide-ranging satirical take on opera, musical theatre (particularly Phantom of the Opera), and ballet dancers (‘half a dozen of the[m] sharing a stick of celery and giggling…they’re all half-crazed with hunger’). The operas are called Lohenshaak and La Triviata, and the splendid jokes and sharp remarks keep coming and coming.
The two witches want to travel by coach:
‘Have you got any special low terms for witches?’
‘Yeah, how about “meddling, interfering old baggages”?’
In a nice touch, Nanny Ogg has a witch’s hat that performs like an opera hat:
She pulled out a flat, round black shape and banged it against her arm. The point shot out. After a few adjustments her official hat was almost as good as new.There’s a mystery to be solved, and it’s not bad, with a touch of GK Chesterton’s Fr Brown (‘…to be seen and not noticed…’) and a funny bit about recognizing the Ghost: ‘Good grief! You can recognize him because he’s got a mask on?’
The top picture (from the Library of Congress) is of opera singer Anna Fitziu – in fact Granny Weatherwax needs to look like an opera patron, someone who will make a donation, but the clothes look right.
Links on the blog: Pratchett looks at equally serious and important entertainers in the clowns’ funeral scene in Men at Arms. Real-life opera singers (though possibly not less extraordinary than TP’s) here and here. Plenty of other witches - Eastwick, Christie, Halloween, Pendle...