Maria von Trapp

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This article is about the matriarch of the Trapp Family Singers. For her stepdaughter who died in 2014, see Maria Franziska von Trapp.
Maria von Trapp
Maria von Trapp 2.jpg
Photo from Declaration of Intention, 21 January 1944
Born Maria Augusta Kutschera
(1905-01-26)26 January 1905
Vienna, Austria-Hungary
Died 28 March 1987(1987-03-28) (aged 82)
Morrisville, Vermont, U.S.
Spouse(s) Georg Johannes von Trapp (m. 1927-1947, his death); 3 children
Children Rosmarie von Trapp (b. 1928 or 1929)[1]
Eleonore von Trapp (b. 1931)
Johannes von Trapp (b. 1939)

Maria Augusta von Trapp (née Kutschera; 26 January 1905 – 28 March 1987) was the stepmother and matriarch of the Trapp Family Singers.[2][3] Her story served as the inspiration for a 1956 German film that in turn inspired the Broadway musical The Sound of Music (1959)[4] and the 1965 film of the same name.

Early life[edit]

Maria was born on 26 January 1905 aboard a train heading from her parents' village in Tyrol to a hospital in Vienna, Austria.[4] She was an orphan by her seventh birthday. She graduated from the State Teachers College for Progressive Education in Vienna at the age of eighteen, in 1923. She entered Nonnberg Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Salzburg, as a postulant, intending to become a nun. (A postulant is a person who is requesting admission to the novitiate. The request may or may not be granted.) While still a schoolteacher there, she was asked to teach one of the seven children of widowed naval commander Georg Johannes von Trapp after his first wife, Agatha (née Whitehead), had died from scarlet fever.[citation needed]

Marriage[edit]

Eventually, Maria began to look after the other children, as well. Georg von Trapp, seeing how much she cared about his children, asked Maria to marry him. Frightened, she fled back to Nonnberg Abbey to seek guidance from the Mother Abbess. The Mother Abbess advised Maria that it was God's will that she should marry the Captain; since Maria was taught always to follow God's will, she returned to the family and told the Captain she would marry him. She later wrote in her autobiography that on her wedding day she was blazing mad, both at God and at her husband, because what she really wanted was to be a nun: "I really and truly was not in love. I liked him but didn't love him. However, I loved the children, so in a way I really married the children. I learned to love him more than I have ever loved before or after."[citation needed]

Maria and Georg married on 26 November 1927. They had three children together: Rosmarie (born 1928 or 1929), Eleonore (born 1931), and Johannes (born 1939), who were the others' half-sisters and half-brother. A discrepancy exists for the birthdate of their oldest child, Rosmarie. In 1944, Maria, under oath in her Declaration of Intention for naturalization, gave the date of the marriage as 26 November 1927 and the date of her first child's birth as 8 February 1928. This would indicate she was pregnant at the time of their marriage, and she gave birth only 2 months and 14 days after her marriage. She confirmed both the marriage and birthdate in her Petition for Naturalization, signed under oath, on 26 May 1948. The Trapp family disputes the 1928 date and Maria used the year 1929 in her book. Photos from Maria and Georg's wedding (3rd photo page between pages 96 and 97 in Maria, by Maria von Trapp) show no evidence of a late-term pregnancy at that date, giving credence to the 1929 date, as does the fact that when the family visited the United States on 27 September 1939, the ship manifest lists Rosmarie as 10, not 11, years old.[5]

Financial problems[edit]

In 1935, Maria von Trapp found herself financially ruined. Her husband had transferred his savings, held until then by a bank in London, to an Austrian bank run by a friend, Frau Lammer. Austria was at the time experiencing economic difficulties during a worldwide depression, because of the crash of 1929. Lammer's bank failed and the family faced a financial emergency.[1] To survive, the Trapps sent away most of their servants, moved into the top floor of their home, and rented the empty rooms to students of the Catholic University. The Archbishop sent Father Franz Wasner to stay with them as their chaplain, and began their singing career.[citation needed]

Early musical career[edit]

Soprano Lotte Lehmann heard the family sing, and she suggested they perform at concerts. When the Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg heard them on the radio, he invited them to perform in Vienna.[6]

After performing at a festival in 2011, they became a popular touring act. They experienced life under the Nazis after the annexation of Austria by Germany in March 1938. Life became increasingly difficult as they witnessed hostility towards Jewish children by their classmates, the use of children against their parents, the advocacy of abortion by both Maria's doctor and by her son's school, and finally by the induction of Georg into the German Navy. They visited Munich in the summer of 1938 and encountered Hitler at a restaurant. In September, the family left Austria and traveled to Italy, and then to the United States. The Nazis made use of their abandoned home as Heinrich Himmler's headquarters.[7]

Initially calling themselves the "Trapp Family Choir", the von Trapps began to perform in the United States and Canada. They performed in New York City at The Town Hall on 10 December 1938.[4][6][8][9] The New York Times wrote:

There was something unusually lovable and appealing about the modest, serious singers of this little family aggregation as they formed a close semicircle about their self-effacing director for their initial offering, the handsome Mme. von Trapp in simple black, and the youthful sisters garbed in black and white Austrian folk costumes enlivened with red ribbons. It was only natural to expect work of exceeding refinement from them, and one was not disappointed in this.[4][9]

Preparing for a concert in Boston in 1941.

Charles Wagner was their first booking agent, then they signed on with Frederick Christian Schang. Thinking the name "Trapp Family Choir" too churchy, Schang Americanized their repertoire and, following his suggestion, the group changed its name to the "Trapp Family Singers".[7] The family, which by then included ten children, was soon touring the world giving concert performances.[4] Alix Williamson served as the group's publicist for over two decades. After the war, they founded the Trapp Family Austrian Relief fund, which sent food and clothing to people impoverished in Austria.

Move to the United States[edit]

Maria von Trapp's certificate of arrival into Niagara Falls, New York, on 30 December 1942

In the 1940s, the family moved to Stowe, Vermont, where they ran a music camp when they were not touring. In 1944, Maria and her stepdaughters, Johanna, Martina, Maria, Hedwig, and Agathe applied for U.S. citizenship. Georg never applied to become a citizen. Rupert and Werner became citizens by serving during World War II. Rosemarie and Eleonore became citizens by virtue of their mother's citizenship. Johannes was born in the United States in September 1939, during a concert tour in Philadelphia.[1] Georg von Trapp died in 1947 in Vermont after suffering lung cancer.

The family made a series of 78 rpm discs for RCA Victor in the 1950s, some of which were later issued on RCA Camden LPs. There were also a few later recordings released on LPs, including some stereo sessions. The family also made an appearance on an Elvis Presley Christmas record. In 1957, the Trapp Family Singers disbanded and went their separate ways. Maria and three of her children became missionaries in the South Pacific. In 1965, Maria had moved back to Vermont to manage the Trapp Family Lodge, which had been named Cor Unum. Maria began turning over management of the Lodge to her only son, Johannes, although she was initially reluctant to do so.[10]

Death[edit]

Maria von Trapp died of heart failure on 28 March 1987 in Morrisville, Vermont, three days following surgery.[4] Maria, her husband Georg, Hedwig von Trapp, and Martina von Trapp are interred in the family cemetery at the Lodge.

Decorations and awards[edit]

Children[edit]

Name Birth Death Notes
Rosmarie Erentrudis von Trapp 8 February 1928 or 8 February 1929[11] In Maria's Declaration of Intention of 1 January 1944 and her Petition for Naturalization signed on 26 May 1948, she stated under oath that she was married on 26 November 1927, and that Rosmarie was born on 8 February 1928.[11][12] However Maria used the year 1929 in her book and the year 1929 is used at the family website. Photos from Maria and Georg's wedding (3rd photo page between pages 96 and 97 in "Maria" by Maria von Trapp) show no evidence of a late-term pregnancy at that date, giving credence to the 1929 date, as does the fact that when the family arrived at the United States on 27 September 1939, the ship manifest lists Rosmarie as 10 years old.
Eleonore von Trapp 14 May 1931 [11] Married Hugh David Campbell in 1954 and had seven daughters with him. Currently lives with her family in Waitsfield, Vermont.[3]
Johannes Georg von Trapp 17 January 1939 [11] Married Lynne Peterson in 1969 and had one son and one daughter with her.[3] He became manager of the family lodge in the 1970s.[13]

The Sound of Music[edit]

Main article: The Sound of Music

Maria's book, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, published in 1949, was a best-seller. It was made into two successful German/Austrian films:

The book was later adapted into The Sound of Music, the successful Broadway musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, which resulted in a popular U.S. motion picture. The Sound of Music, with music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, opened on Broadway in the fall of 1959, starring Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel. It was a success, running for more than three years. The film version set box office records, and she received about $500,000 ($4.09 million today) in royalties.[4]

Maria von Trapp made a cameo appearance in the movie version of The Sound of Music (1965). For an instant, she, her daughter Rosmarie, and Werner's daughter Barbara can be seen walking past an archway during the song, "I Have Confidence", at the line, "I must stop these doubts, all these worries/If I don't, I just know I'll turn back."[14] Maria von Trapp sang "Edelweiss" with Julie Andrews on The Julie Andrews Hour in 1973.

In December 2013, a live TV production of the stage play was broadcast on NBC, starring Carrie Underwood as Maria.[15][16]

Writings[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Gearin, Joan. "The Real Story of the von Trapp Family". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved 5 January 2009. "Maria Kutschera and Georg von Trapp married in 1927. They had three children together ..." 
  2. ^ "Maria Augusta Kutschera von Trapp". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 9 January 2011. "Maria Augusta Kutschera (26 January 1905 – 28 March 1987), the best-known member of the family, wrote The Story of the Trapp Family Singers (1949). She recounted her experience as an orphan and novitiate in a Benedictine convent in Salzburg. As a governess, she won the hearts of the seven children of a widower, Freiherr (Baron)..." 
  3. ^ a b c "Tribute to Baron von Trapp Joined by Country He Fled". New York Times. 14 July 1997. Retrieved 8 January 2011. "The ceremonies ended today in a morning Mass, at which the cadets stood watch during a performance of Franz Schubert's Deutsche Messe, then laid a wreath at the grave of Baron and Baroness von Trapp, who were portrayed by Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews in the film The Sound of Music (1965). ... The six surviving children are Eleonore Campbell, Rosmarie Trapp and Maria, Werner, Johannes and Agathe von Trapp, all of whom live in the United States." 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Peter Kerr (29 March 1987). "Maria von Trapp, Whose Life was 'Sound of Music', is Dead". New York Times. Retrieved 21 July 2007. "Maria Augusta von Trapp, the guiding force behind a family of singers who won world renown when their story was portrayed in the play and film The Sound of Music, died of heart failure yesterday in Morrisville, Vt., three days after undergoing surgery. She was eighty-two years old, and had lived in Stowe, Vermont, for more than forty years. She still lives on through her only son, Johannes, of Stowe; two daughters, Eleanor [sic] Campbell of Waitsfield, Vermont, and Rosemarie [sic] Trapp of Pittsburgh; two stepsons, Rupert, of Stowe, and Werner, of Waitsfield; three stepdaughters, Agathe von Trapp of Glyndon, Maryland, Maria F. Trapp of Papua, New Guinea, and Johanna von Trapp of San Diego, and by twenty-nine grandchildren." 
  5. ^ [1], archives.gov; accessed 25 February 2014.
  6. ^ a b "Family Choir". Time magazine. 19 December 1938. Retrieved 7 January 2011. "When Soprano Lotte Lehmann heard them, she suggested concerts. When Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg heard them over the radio, he invited them to sing in Vienna. Soon the von Trapps were touring the whole map of Europe." 
  7. ^ a b Trapp, Maria Augusta (1953). The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. ISBN 978-0-385-02896-7. "After Armistice day when the boys [Maria's sons] were still in Europe, they had gone for a short visit to Salzburg and found that our old home there had been confiscated by Heinrich Himmler; that it had been made his headquarters for the last period of that cruel war; that the chapel had been turned into a beer parlour; and what had been Father Wasner's room had become Hitler's quarters when he came there." 
  8. ^ It should be noted, however, that the "seven young singing von Trapps" ranged in age from 16 to 27 and were not young children.
  9. ^ a b "Group Heard in Choral Works of Five Centuries in Its First Appearance Here". New York Times. 11 December 1938. Retrieved 5 January 2009. "An intriguing array of choral selections, culled from the music of the last five centuries, and representative works for the early vertical flutes known as recorders, was presented by the Trapp Family Choir at their first New York concert given yesterday afternoon at Town Hall." 
  10. ^ Trapp, Maria Augusta (1972). Maria: Maria von Trapp, My Own Story. ISBN 0-902088-43-2. "Like many other parents who have been leaders for a very long time, I simply didn't know how to step down without bitterness and reproaches ... There I found myself in the middle of a generation gap." 
  11. ^ a b c d "Petition for Naturalization for Maria von Trapp". Immigration and Naturalization Service via NARA. 26 May 1948. Retrieved 5 January 2009. 
  12. ^ "Declaration of Intention of Maria Von Trapp". Immigration and Naturalization Service via NARA. 21 January 1944. Retrieved 5 September 2011. 
  13. ^ Clifford, Stephanie (24 December 2008). "Von Trapps Reunited, Without the Singing". New York Times. Retrieved 26 December 2008. "Still, Johannes von Trapp, the 10th and youngest child, remembers growing up relatively anonymously in a quiet, strict home. ... By 1969, he had graduated from Dartmouth, completed a master’s degree from the Yale school of forestry and was planning on an academic career in natural resources. He returned to Stowe to put the inn’s finances in order, and ended up running the place. He tried to leave, moving to a ranch in British Columbia in 1977 and staying a few years, then moving to a ranch in Montana. But the professional management in Stowe kept quitting. 'Now I’m stuck here', he said." 
  14. ^ Anderson, William (1998). The World of the Trapp Family. Anderson Publications. ISBN 1-890757-00-4. 
  15. ^ Alter, Charlotte (20 November 2013). "NBC's The Sound of Music Live: What Went Wrong and What Went Right". Time. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  16. ^ Emma Brockes. "Carrie Underwood's Sound of Music - gag me now". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 

External links[edit]