Maria von Trapp

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Maria von Trapp
Maria von Trapp in 1948.jpg
Von Trapp in 1948
Maria Augusta Kutschera

(1905-01-26)26 January 1905
Died28 March 1987(1987-03-28) (aged 82)
Resting placeTrapp Family Cemetery, Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, Vermont, U.S.
(m. 1927; died 1947)
Children3, including Johannes von Trapp plus 7 stepchildren

Baroness[1][2][3] Maria Augusta von Trapp DHS (née Kutschera; 26 January 1905 – 28 March 1987) was the stepmother and matriarch of the Trapp Family Singers.[4][5] She wrote The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, which was published in 1949 and was the inspiration for the 1956 West German film The Trapp Family, which in turn inspired the 1959 Broadway musical The Sound of Music and its 1965 film version.[6][7]


Early life[edit]

Maria was born on 26 January 1905 to Augusta (née Rainer) and Karl Kutschera.[8] She was delivered on a train heading from her parents' village in Tyrol to a hospital in Vienna, Austria.[6]

Her mother died of pneumonia when she was two. Her father, grief-stricken, left Maria with his cousin (her foster mother) who had cared for Maria's half-brother after his mother died. Maria's father then traveled the world, although Maria would visit him upon occasion at his apartment in Vienna. When she was nine, her father died. Her foster mother's son-in-law, Uncle Franz, then became her guardian.[9]

Uncle Franz did not treat Maria well and punished her for things she did not do. (He later was found to be mentally ill.) This changed Maria from the shy child she was and, as a teenager, she became the "class cut-up", figuring she may as well have fun if she was going to get in trouble either way. Despite this change, Maria continued to get good grades.[9]

After graduating from high school at 15, Maria ran away to stay with a friend with the intent to become a tutor for children staying at nearby hotels. As she looked so young, no one took her seriously. Finally, a hotel manager asked her to be the umpire for a tennis tournament. Although she did not know what an umpire was and had never played tennis, she took the job.

From this job, she saved enough money to enter the State Teachers College for Progressive Education in Vienna, where she also received a scholarship.[9] She graduated from there at age 18, in 1923.

In 1924, she entered Nonnberg Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Salzburg, as a postulant intending to become a nun.[10]


Georg von Trapp on the bridge of submarine U-5 of the Austro-Hungarian Navy (1915)

Maria was asked to teach one of the seven children (Maria Franziska) of widowed naval commander Georg von Trapp in 1926, while she was still a schoolteacher at the abbey.[7][11] His wife, Agathe Whitehead, had died in 1922 from scarlet fever.[12] Eventually, Maria began to look after the other children (Rupert, Agathe, Werner, Hedwig, Johanna and Martina), as well.

Captain von Trapp saw how much she cared about his children and asked her to marry him, although he was 25 years her senior. She was frightened and fled back to Nonnberg Abbey to seek guidance from the mother abbess, Virgilia Lütz, who advised her that it was God's will that she should marry him. She then returned to the family and accepted his proposal. She wrote in her autobiography that she was very angry on her wedding day, both at God and at her new 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."[13] They were married on 26 November 1927 and had three children together: Rosmarie (1929-2022), Eleonore ("Lorli") (1931-2021) and Johannes (born 1939).

Medical problems[edit]

The Von Trapps enjoyed hiking. On one outing, they stayed overnight at a farmer's house. The next morning, they were informed that two of his daughters had scarlet fever. Georg's children, Maria, Johanna, and Martina were infected. Johanna and Martina recovered, but the older Maria developed kidney stones, due to dehydration. Her stepdaughter, Maria, accompanied her to Vienna for a successful surgery, but Maria experienced lifelong kidney problems.[13]

Financial problems[edit]

The family met with financial ruin in 1935. Georg had transferred his savings from a bank in London to an Austrian bank run by a friend named Frau Lammer. Austria was experiencing economic difficulties during a worldwide depression because of the Crash of 1929 and Lammer's bank failed.[14] To survive, the Trapps discharged most of their servants, moved into the top floor of their house, and rented out the other rooms. The Archbishop of Salzburg, Sigismund Waitz, sent Father Franz Wasner to stay with them as their chaplain and this began their singing career.[13]

Early musical career and departure from Austria[edit]

Soprano Lotte Lehmann heard the family sing, and she suggested they perform at concerts. When the Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg heard them over the radio, he invited them to perform in Vienna.[15]

After performing at a festival in 1935, 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 toward Jewish children by their classmates, the use of children against their parents, the advocacy of abortion both by 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, then to England and finally the United States. The Nazis made use of their abandoned home as Heinrich Himmler's headquarters.[13]

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.[6][15][16][17] 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.[6][17]

Trapp Family Singers preparing for a concert in Boston in 1941. Maria is the third from left, with a dark suit.

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".[13] The family, which by then included ten children, was soon touring the world giving concert performances.[6] 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 Augusta, Maria Franziska, Johanna, Martina, Hedwig and Agathe applied for U.S. citizenship, whereas Georg never applied to become a citizen. Rupert and Werner became citizens by serving during World War II, while Rosmarie and Eleonore became citizens by virtue of their mother's citizenship. Johannes was born in the United States in Philadelphia on the 17th January 1939 during a concert tour.[14] Georg von Trapp died in 1947 in Vermont after suffering lung cancer.

The family made a series of 78-rpm records 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. In 1957, the Trapp Family Singers disbanded and went their separate ways. Maria and three of her children became missionaries in Papua New Guinea. In 1965, Maria moved back to Vermont to manage the Trapp Family Lodge, which had been named Cor Unum. She began turning over management of the lodge to her son Johannes, although she was initially reluctant to do so.[18] Hedwig returned to Austria and worked as a teacher in Umhausen.


Maria von Trapp died of heart failure on 28 March 1987, aged 82, in Morrisville, Vermont, three days following surgery.[19] She is interred in the family cemetery at the lodge, along with her husband and five of her step-children.

Decorations and awards[edit]

The family has won the following awards:[11]


Name Birth Death Notes
Rosemarie Erentrudis von Trapp 8 February 1929[20] 13 May 2022 Rosmarie worked as a singer and missionary in Papua New Guinea. She most recently lived in Pittsburgh.[6]
Eleonore von Trapp 14 May 1931[21] 17 October 2021
(aged 90)[22]
Married Hugh David Campbell in 1954 and had seven daughters with him. Lived with her family in Waitsfield, Vermont.[5]
Johannes von Trapp 17 January 1939[21] Married Lynne Peterson in 1969 and had one son and one daughter with her.[5] He became manager of the family lodge in the 1970s.[23]

Adaptations of the autobiography[edit]

Maria von Trapp'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 then adapted into The Sound of Music, a 1959 Broadway musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, starring Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel. It was a success, running for more than three years. The musical was adapted in 1965 as a motion picture of the same name, starring Julie Andrews. The film version set US box office records, and Maria von Trapp received about $500,000 ($4.7 million today) in royalties.[6]

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."[24]

Maria von Trapp sang "Edelweiss" with Andrews on The Julie Andrews Hour in 1973. In 1991, a 40 episode anime series, titled Trapp Family Story aired in Japan, her character referred to by her maiden name (Maria Kutschera), voiced by Masako Katsuki. She was portrayed in the 2015 film The von Trapp Family: A Life of Music by Yvonne Catterfeld.



  1. ^ Kerr, Peter (March 29, 1987). "Maria Von Trapp, Whose Life Was 'Sound of Music, an amazing movie' Is Dead". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Inc., New York Times (14 July 1997). "Tribute to Baron von Trapp Joined by Country He Fled". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 February 2015. The ceremonies ended today in a morning Mass, at which the cadets stood watch during a performance of Franz Schubert's German Mass, then laid a wreath at the grave of Baron and Baroness von Trapp, who were portrayed by Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews in the 1965 film The Sound of Music.
  3. ^ Gearin, Joan. "Movie vs. Reality". The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration – Winter 2005, Vol. 37, No. 4 National Archives. Retrieved 27 February 2015. Georg von Trapp, born in 1880, became a national hero as a captain in the Austrian navy during World War I. He commanded submarines with valor and received the title of "Ritter" and subsequently "baron") as a reward for his heroic accomplishments.
  4. ^ "Maria Augusta Kutschera von Trapp". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
  5. ^ a b c "Tribute to Baron von Trapp Joined by Country He Fled". New York Times. 14 July 1997. Retrieved 8 January 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Kerr, Peter (29 March 1987). "Maria von Trapp, whose life was 'Sound of Music', is Dead". The 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, Vermont, three days after undergoing surgery. She was 82 years old and had lived in Stowe, Vermont, for more than 40 years. ... She is survived by a son, Johannes, of Stowe; two daughters, Eleonore Campbell of Waitsfield, Vermont, and Rosmarie Trapp of Pittsburgh; two stepsons, Rupert, of Stowe and Werner, of Waitsfield; three stepdaughters, Agathe von Trapp of Glyndon, Maryland, Maria Franziska von Trapp of Papua New Guinea, and Johanna von Trapp of San Diego, California, and by 29 grandchildren.
  7. ^ a b Bernhard, Marianne (1 October 1980). "Maria von Trapp speaks". Milwaukee Journal. Washington Post. p. 6, part 1.
  8. ^ Maria von Trapp biography accessed 2016-03-01
  9. ^ a b c Ransom, Candice F., 1952- (2002). Maria von Trapp : beyond the Sound of Music. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books. ISBN 1-57505-444-2. OCLC 45064758.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Mead, Wendy. "Maria von Trapp". Biography. Retrieved 2022-01-01.
  11. ^ a b Trapp Family Lodge. "The von Trapp Chronology". Archived from the original on 2011-08-30. Retrieved 2014-09-20. Maria was chosen by the Mother Abbess to help the Baron Georg von Trapp with his seven children and tutor young Maria who had contracted scarlet fever.
  12. ^ Trapp Family Lodge. "Agathe von Trapp 1913–2010". Archived from the original on 2011-08-30. Retrieved 2014-09-20. When Agathe was 10, her mother died of scarlet fever. ...
  13. ^ a b c d e 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.
  14. ^ a b 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.
  15. ^ a b "Family Choir". Time magazine. 19 December 1938. Archived from the original on April 15, 2009. 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.
  16. ^ The "seven young singing von Trapps" ranged in age from 16 to 27 and were not young children.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Peter Kerr (29 March 1987). "Maria von Trapp, Whose Life was 'Sound of Music', is Dead". New York Times. Retrieved 21 July 2007.
  20. ^ "Rosa Trapp 8.II. 1929". Retrieved 2018-01-12.
  21. ^ a b "Petition for Naturalization for Maria von Trapp". Immigration and Naturalization Service via NARA. National Archives and Records Administration. 26 May 1948. Retrieved 5 January 2009.
  22. ^ Lorli von Trapp Campbell, of ‘Sound of Music’ family, dies
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ Anderson, William (1998). The World of the Trapp Family. Anderson Publications. ISBN 1-890757-00-4.

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