The Opera House is situated in Pseudopolis Yard, opposite the headquarters of the modern Ankh-Morpork City Watch, on a bit of uptown Ankh-Morpork called the Isle of Gods, which is surrounded on three sides by a bend in the river Ankh. The Opera House is usually seen as the geographic centre of the city. As the name indicates, the Opera House is a place of culture, particularly operas, an art form which you can follow either the singing or the plot, but not both. The singing, for that matter, is traditionally all in foreign languages that no Ankh-Morporkian patrons truly understand.
The Grand Aspects
The Opera House is a grand building on the front side, with lots of masonry. The auditorium has a stage, a pit for the orchestra, rows upon rows of seats, and balcony boxes for the special patrons. The interior is decorated with red velvet and plaster cherubs painted golden. But definitely not real gold: as Ankh-Morpork's Cultural Attaché to Überwald pointed out in conversation with his opposite number, some bugger would have had dem if dey were.
There is also, or by the time of Making Money it may be more accurate to say was, a huge imposing chandelier hanging above the auditorium. This gets knocked about a bit during the fateful first night of Il Truccattore, but remains more-or-less in place. However, once the new management at the Post Office are on the trail of where their chandeliers disappeared to at some point in the last thirty years, it could only be a matter of time before Moist von Lipwig got them back. By inference, as Moist expressed his reluctance to cause annoyance to dangerously highly-strung people who are capable of killing, this would have been the second of the two to be retrieved: he would have gone for the easier one at the Assassins' Guild first. As in the opening chapter of Making Money we see the Post Office is celebrating getting its chandeliers back, we can deduce this has moved on by this point.
The Less than Grand Aspects
The non-public areas of the Opera House are a dark, dilapidated maze. Narrow, high stairwells lead up to the small, partitioned and re-partitioned rooms for the ballet girls and the chorus singers. There are stairwells and corridors that are walled off with thin boards. Some of the stairwells lead all the way up to the roof or all the way down to the cellars. There are huge rooms behind the stages full of the scenery props of various operas. There are cellars, dark, wet, infested by rats, and muddy where they meet what is possibly an underground river.
Superstitions and Accidents
It is terrible bad luck to whistle on stage, partly because stage hands use whistles as signals for dropping sandbag counterweights to pull up the curtains, sceneries, etc. Real flowers are unlucky because they will one day wither and die, like a fading soprano. Once a seamstress (needlewoman) accidentally sewed herself onto some scenery. A stage-painter was found suddenly tangled in ropes with turpentine in his ears. There is an Opera Ghost on the premises, with a face like a skull. Once upon a time he sent chocolates, dead flowers (since, as aforementioned, fresh flowers are unlucky), and little encouraging notes to the chorus singers and ballet girls. Later, he seemed to be the one responsible for these strange accidents, in some of which people have died. Still later, some deaths looked so suspiciously like murders, it was hard to call them accidents, and the Watch was called in.
Ownership and Artistic Leadership
The Opera House ownership has been continuously changing hands between Ankh-Morporkian merchants who are jolly, provide the money, know nothing of opera, and still think they can make a contribution on how the operas should be run. In any case, the strange accidents and the fact that the place does not make any profit regardless of the packed audience every night always drives the owners to sell up. The real artistic leaders of the place know that an opera is produced by high-strung people who hate each other and are very superstitious.
Right before the Watch was called in, the leaders of the place were:
Dr. Undershaft died of murder by an Opera Ghost, and Mr. Salzella died of a sort of headological suicide. There were interventions by two famous Lancre witches and one Lancre girl who does not want to become a witch. There were interventions by the Watch. There was recovery of bags upon bags of money, which one of the Opera Ghosts has stolen. Possibly the even more valuable discovery is Walter Plinge's development of a new art form, shows with songs in Ankh-Morporkian language and tunes that one can whistle.
The current leaders of the Opera House are:
- Mr. Seldom Bucket, owner.
- Walter Plinge, the nicer of the Opera Ghosts, as the musical director.
- Christine, the young and beautiful prima donna who cannot sing at all. She is an air-headed parody of the more competent Roundworld Christine Daaé from The Phantom of the Opera.
- It is possible that André remains part of the operation.
The Other Opera House
There is also an Opera House in the city of Bugarup on XXXX. In keeping with Fourecksian pretensions to culture, which verge on a neurotic desire to represent themselves to the rest of the world as something more than a bunch of plain-speaking beer-swilling ockers, this is not built out of the traditional local material of corrugated iron sheeting. It takes the form of a blindingly white rectangular box, with odd billowing structures on the top that put Rincewind in mind of paper hankies protruding from a box of tissues, or from another angle like ships' sails. All of which is somewhat reminiscent of here...
Opera is big on Fourecks: it has a creditable list of divas, the current star being Dame Nellie Butt, a woman who reduced a chef to tears wondering what dessert he could name after her. Previous stars at the Bugarup Opera House include Dame Wendy Sackville, Dame Margyreen Glazier, Dame Janine Ormulu, and Germaine Trifle.