Thursday, September 22, 2011

The hills are ALIVE!!!

The musical The Sound of Music is a story based on the extraordinary life of a real family and is being performed at Vive Les Arts Theatre in Killeen. Performance dates are September 23rd, 24, 30, October 1, 2, 7, 8, 9.

No doubt, without the von Trapp Family, there would be no Sound of Music. So, how did this wonderful story come to life and how much of the story is true? It started with the real Maria von Trapp, then Maria Augusta Kutschera who was born on a train going to Vienna. She grew up and went to teacher training college and then joined The Roman Catholic Benedictine Abbey of Nonnberg in Salzburg as a novice. This is where the story begins and is largely based on the first section of Maria’s book The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.

The Baron Georg Ritter von Trapp had retired from the navy and lived in what is now Pula, Croatia. When his wife died of scarlet fever he, and the children could no longer stand to live in the place they had been so happy. He sold the property and moved the family to Salzburg. He was now a widow with seven children. The oldest was actually a boy named Rupert. Next came Agathe, Maria, Werner, Hedwig, Johanna and Martina.

The Baron approached the Reverend Mother of the Abbey seeking a teacher for his sick daughter, Maria, who was weak with rheumatic fever. The Reverend Mother decided to send Maria because of her training and skill as a teacher.  She was to stay with the von Trapps for ten months and then return to the Abbey and formally enter the convent.

Maria fell in love with the children immediately. She tutored young Maria and had a loving relationship with all of the children while singing and getting them involved in outdoor activities. In reality Georg was far from the detached, cold-blooded patriarch of the family. He was actually very warm hearted and enjoyed music with his family. But it made a better story to have his character being healed and softened by Maria and the children.  Georg and Maria married in 1927 and had three more children: Rosmarie, Eleonore and Johannes.

The family lost most of its wealth through the depression and Maria dismissed most of the servants and took in boarders. It was about this time that they began considering making the family hobby of singing into a profession. Just as in The Sound of Music the family won first place in the Salzburg Music Festival in 1936. They became successful singing Renaissance and Baroque music, madrigals and folk songs all across Europe.

When the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938, Georg refused to fly the Nazi flag, declined a naval command and a request to sing at Hitler’s birthday party. They could have taken advantage of the offerings from them – greater fame as a singing group, a medical doctor’s position for Rupert and a renewed naval career for Georg. But they were aware of what the Nazis were doing and knew they could not compromise their principles and left their friends, family, estate and all their possessions.

The von Trapps traveled to Italy, not Switzerland, then later to London and on to New York to begin a concert tour in Pennsylvania. When their six month visas expired they went to Scandinavia for a short tour and returned to Ellis Island for Immigration and Naturalization.

In the early 1940s the family settled in Stowe, Vermont where the landscape reminded them of Austria. They bought a farm and ran a music camp when they were not on tour. It is now a 2,400 acre resort known as The von Trapp Family Lodge and is still owned and managed by members of the von Trapp family themselves. Georg died in 1947 and was buried in the family cemetery on the property.

The von Trapp Family Singers decided to stop touring in 1955. In the years following Maria ran the Trapp Family Lodge for many years. And what about the children? Rupert was a medical doctor; Agathe was a kindergarten teacher; daughter Maria was a missionary for 30 years; Werner was a farmer; Hedwig taught music; Johanna married and returned to live in Austria; Martina married and died in childbirth; Rosmarie and Eleonore both settled in Vermont; and Johannes managed the Trapp Family Lodge. Maria died in 1987 and was buried next to Georg.

Entertaining is still very much a part of the von Trapp family’s life today. Elisabeth, a grand daughter of Maria and Georg is a singer, songwriter and pianist who performs and records her own music. Justin, Amanda, Melanie and Sofia, great grandchildren of Baron von Trapp and his first wife, formed a singing group called J.A.M.S.
In the end it was Maria who sat down and wrote an account of her life in the book called The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. It sold well but later the film rights were sold for a modest fee to German producers and the Trapps did not make much money. The German films Die Trapp-Familie (1956), and a sequel, Die Trapp Familie in Amerika (1958), were quite successful. The American rights were bought from the German producers. The book was later adapted for the Broadway stage show and then was made into the much loved movie, The Sound of Music.

No matter if you love the book or the movie version of the story, you are sure to enjoy the performance of The Sound of Music at the Vive Les Arts Theatre in Killeen. Please visit our webpage, to purchase your tickets today! Don’t miss your chance to see the hills come to life one more time.

This story contributed by Jennifer Leaton

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