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The Trapp Family

The life of the Trapp Family is inseparably connected with Salzburg and music. Every year nearly 300,000 people travel to Salzburg to visit the places where the Trapp Family lived and the movie locations. The songs from "The Sound of Music" are known around the world.

The family
Many legends surround the life of the Trapp Family. Some of the details of the film deviate from what happened in real life. This is the "true" story: in 1911 Georg von Trapp, a submarine commander in the Austrian navy, married his first wife, Agathe Whitehead. He took command of the Austrian U5 submarine at the beginning of World War I. His wife and the first two children moved to the Erlhof farm in Zell am See in Salzburg's lake district where several more children were born. The family was forced to move several times to larger homes. Several months after the family moved into Martinsschlössel in Klosterneuburg, the children and their mother fell ill with scarlet fever. The mother died on September 3, 1922.

From a novice to a governess
The children and their father moved to Salzburg In 1925. In search of a tutor for his second oldest daughter, Maria, who was still recovering from scarlet fever and had a heart problem, Georg von Trapp met Maria Augusta Kutschera. The young woman was about to enter Salzburg's Nonnberg Abbey as a novice but the Mother Superior sent her to the von Trapps as a tutor in 1925. This is the point in the family's history where the movie begins.

The turmoil of World War II
The "governess" became von Trapp's second wife on November 26, 1927. Two daughters, Rosemarie and Eleonore, were born in 1929 and 1931. Since the family lost its fortune in 1933 with the failure of their bank, Maria Augusta set up a family choir with her husband's children. Maria von Trapp dismissed the servants, moved the family into the servants' quarters and rented their former home to guests. One of the guests was Lotte Lehmann, who had heard the children singing and suggested they enter a folk music contest. The von Trapps win the contest, which is followed by a radio concert.

Emigration and international success
After the Anschluss, when Austria was annexed to the Third Reich, Georg von Trapp was called back to naval duty but declined. Instead, the family emigrated to the USA and built a house in Stowe, Vermont, which they called Cor Unum. Their son Johannes was born in 1939. The family continued to go on concert tours in the USA, usually appearing as the "Trapp Family Singers". Maria Augusta Trapp died on  March 28, 1987 in Morrisville at the age of 82.

The movie
Maria Augusta von Trapp wrote her memoirs in 1952 in a book called The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. In 1959 "The Sound of Music" was staged as a musical and was immensely popular in the Anglo-American countries. The film, directed by Robert Wise starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, appeared in 1965 and was a triumph for 20th Century Fox Studios.
The deviations between the film and real life not only relate to the portrayal of the locations. Their escape, depicted in the film as a secret flight over the Alps, was pure fiction: in real life the von Trapps put their household in order and drove to Brunegg, Switzerland. From there they traveled via London to America, where their successful 20-year concert tour began.

 

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