The last of the von Trapp sisters, who were the inspiration for The Sound of Music, has passed away at 99 years of age. Maria Franziska von Trapp died on Tuesday according to her brother, Jonathan von Trapp. The von Trapp family lived in Austria but fled in 1938 when it was occupied by the Nazi regime. Supposedly, the family had feared discipline for declining to sing at Hilter’s 49th Birthday party, as well as Maria’s father’s refusal to accept German commission in the Navy.
Von Trapp was said be a kind and musically talented person. She taught Austrian dance lessons at the lodge and also played the accordion for guests. She has said of her upbringing that she was constantly surrounded by music. Her father played the mandolin, violin and accordion while her mother played piano and violin. Her grandmother was also a musician and she was often said to participate in family music sessions in Austria and play the piano for them after meals.
Upon the arrival of the von Trapp family in the United States, they began touring around the country performing songs. Von Trapp sang second soprano alongside her six siblings. She was the second oldest daughter of Captain Georg Johannes von Trapp and was reported to be the inspiration for Louisa in the film. The family decided to move to Vermont after staying there on their tour and then started a small lodge business named after the family, which remains open today in the town of Stowe. The lodge offers history tours as well as screenings of The Sound of Music every Thursday. Maria remained in Vermont for the majority of her life up until her death last week inside her home.
It was because of Maria’s ill-health that her father decided to hire a governess, Maria Augusta Kutschera, to take care of the children. Von Trapp had heart problems as an early child from complications related to her contracting scarlet fever, the disease that killed her mother in 1922. Maria, the governess, tutored von Trapp and formed a strong bond with the children and Capt. Von Trapp, eventually marrying him in 1927 and giving birth to three children. It was from the governess’ book that the inspiration for the Oscar-winning musical of 1965, The Sound of Music came from. The film tells the story of a governess who moves in with a widower and teaches his children music, enriching their lives while applying a strict, yet loving authority. Von Trapp reminisces about her father’s second wife, saying that although she did apply strict discipline to the children, after three years she became her “second mother.”
Von Trapp did not spend all of her time in America. She travelled to Paupa, New Guinea with her step-mother to work as a missionary. She also travelled back to her hometown in Salzburg, Austria, as well as the city she was born in, Zell-am-See, with her half-brother, Johannes von Trapp. He spoke fondly of his recently deceased sister saying that she was a lovely person and that “there wasn’t a mean or miserable bone in her body.” The Sound of Music remains a classic amongst critics and audiences alike. It is because of the inspiration of the Von Trapp Family that it came to be, and will be revered for years to come.
By Lian Morrison
The Globe and Mail