While still in Vienna and keen to soak up what MyNews24 user, jacqui.daanevanrensburg, calls “a civilized experience”, I decided to spend Sunday afternoon at the Marionette Theater at Schönbrunn Palace watching the puppet opera production of Mozart’s Magic Flute in hopes of redeeming myself after hours spent at my laptop and the heresy of travelling to a foreign country and eating McDonald’s instead of local delicacies. My drug of choice for enduring operas would not normally be caffeine, but acting on Tannie Daane Van Rensburg’s advice, I got loaded on potent Austrian Coffee (imported from Ethiopia) and prepared for my next misadventure.
The show is advertised on the wien.info website as follows: “The puppets dance for you in the Hofratstrakt of Schönbrunn Palace. Small dreams shaped from wood, to which the operators briefly give charm and soul, bring a world of fantasy, drama and art to life.”
The writers of this small extract were clearly on some serious mind-deadening opiates. How it should read is: “The evil little imps directly from the pages of some Pseudo-Germanic Nazi Mythology Manifesto dance in eager anticipation of feasting upon your spleen in the Hofratstrakt of Schönbrunn Palace. Small insidious nightmares shaped from wood and the spiny bones of your favourite deceased childhood pets, into which the Germanic demon, Krampus, has personally breathed his fetid life-force to bring a world of excrutiating terror, childhood trauma and dread to life.”
Before recounting my horrific experience, let me warn the uninitiated reader that Austrian/Ethiopian espresso should NOT be underestimated. During World War 2 Nazi soldiers injected this stuff directly into their eyeballs to keep themselves up for weeks on end. This is not Ricoffy, ladies and gentlemen, this is a class A stimulant as far as I am concerned. One cup will elevate your mood, increase alertness, improve athletic performance. Two cups, will induce hyperglyphia, erratic speech and the overwhelming sensation of being on the brink of some incredible revelation. Three cups can spell anything from kidney failure to adrenal psychosis. After my sixth I began to realise that I had made a terrible mistake.
The theatre turned out to be the size of a 16th century dungeon ante-chamber and was packed with kids. Every hyper-alert Austrian mother had their eyes on me as if I was the next Josef Fritzl. The caffeine was bleeding from my pores in steaming rivulets by now and my eyes were the sunken pits of the eternally depraved. Relax! Breath! I told myself. It’s the just the coffee taking hold. Your adrenaline glands are probably the size of lemons right now…Holy Flute! On stage a misshapen serpent was slithering through billows of mist and forest. “Run little Tamino, run!” I almost shouted. More frightening than the chase scene unravelling before me was the fact that the children in the audience were laughing. “What’s wrong with you people? What do you teach your children?! There is a small hominoid on stage that is about to be devoured by a Jurassic throwback! We must save him!” I realised my behaviour was drawing attention so instead I returned to my seat, and sat rocking backwards and forwards on the bouncy little chairs while watching this strange pantomime of sinister simulacra, obscure Masonic symbolism and dubious love triangles unfurl on the HD TV set-sized stage.
If these soulless effigies represent the height of European culture, I don’t want any part of it. Give me the crime-ridden streets of Hillbrough, give me potholes and poverty over the mystical horrors of Mozart’s subconscious in the depths of a caffeine overdose any day. And the worst part of it is, ladies and gentlemen, Mev Van Rensburg, after that sort of trauma, keeping down Torte is next to impossible.