Translated “Schönbrunn” means beautiful spring, but as with many places named for features of nature that have long since vanished, no source of gushing pristine water is in evidence, though apparently an artesian well once supplied water for use by the court. During the era when the horse was a major mode of transportation, the stench of manure, brought out by the summer heat, made city dwelling unpleasant. Thus, those that had the means to do so fled to a summer residence in the country. Schönbrunn Schloss, the Rococo palace with its 1,441 rooms and acres of formal gardens was where the Habsburgs spent their summers.
Laetitia arranged for her group to take a tour of the palace and grounds with a local guide. Afterwards she took them to a puppet theater that featured a performance of Mozart’s Magic Flute, with recorded music, of course. That evening they went to a performance of Wagner’s Tannhäuser, at the Vienna State Opera House. It was beautifully sung but was otherwise an odd production. The set for the Venusberg, the magical grotto where Tannhäuser led a sensual life before struggling to leave it behind, resembled a nineteenth century bordello. Instead of following the pilgrims to Rome to seek the Pope’s absolution Tannhäuser was in an insane asylum. He only imagined going to Rome and instead of pilgrims his companions were the other denizens of the Asylum dressed as though they were on a zombie pub crawl. Late nineteenth century Vienna was the time of Freud, but Laetitia found the Freudian theme lame. She enjoyed the opera most when she closed her eyes and listened to the music. The up side was that it gave Laetitia the limerick of the day.
Somehow it just didn’t seem mellow
The Venusberg as a bordello
And the zombie pub crawl
Did somehow appall
As the fate of that Tannhäuser fellow.