Salvinorin A (SalA) is a plant metabolite that agonizes the human kappa-opioid receptor (κ-OR) with high affinity and high selectivity over mu- and delta-opioid receptors. Its therapeutic potential has stimulated extensive semi-synthetic studies and total synthesis campaigns. However, structural modification of SalA has been complicated by its instability, and efficient total synthesis has been frustrated by its dense, complex architecture. Treatment of strategic bonds in SalA as dynamic and dependent on structural perturbation enabled the identification of an efficient retrosynthetic pathway. Here we show that deletion of C20 simultaneously stabilizes the SalA skeleton, simplifies its synthesis and retains its high affinity and selectivity for the κ-OR. The resulting 10-step synthesis now opens the SalA scaffold to deep-seated property modification.