Georg Joannes Ritter von Trapp
Relevant Non-Istrians

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The Trapp Family Singers

With the loss of their patriarch in 1947, the children, now nearly all adults, started to rebel. They were tired of living on the road, and they wanted to start families and settle down. Urged by a friend, Maria von Trapp decided to write a book about the adventurous life of the Trapp family, The Story of the Trapp Family which was published in 1949. Even as the family was suffering, Maria made them sound harmonious and heroic in her book as a way to help promote the group. To her surprise, the book was a success.

Even when the family was at the height of their popularity, Maria would not let them rest. The ten children toured up to eight months a year. During the summer they worked their Vermont farm and ran a music camp. They soon found out that this was not enough to support the whole family, so while they were away on tours they rented their home to skiers. (This was the begining of the von Trapp hotel business. The Trapp family first started welcoming guests to their 27-room lodge in the summer of 1950.)

Meanwhile, the isolation of a life on the road or on the farm, combined with constant work and Maria's volatile temper, took its toll. Rosmarie, Maria's eldest child, suffered a nervous breakdown and her mother sent her for electro-shock therapy. Another daughter, Martina, left the group to elope in 1949, and she died in childbirth [was it that same year or in 1951 or 1952?). Before long, Maria was forced to hire non-family members for the family singing group. They continued to perform as a family around the world until 1955 (or 56?) and touring as far away as Australia.

In 1957 (or 1956?), the Music Camp was closed and the Trapp Family Singers' twenty years of performing and touring together in over thirty countries came to an end. The children were getting married and following their own professional interests. Maria and three of the children, Maria, Rosemarie and Johannes, along with Father Wasner then traveled to the South Pacific to begin missionary work (what year?). They first went together to New Guinea. The two daughters, Maria and Rosemarie, became teachers and Johannes helped build two new schoolhouses and a church. Maria and Father Wasner were asked by the Archbishop to travel for a year throughout the islands to observe and report the needs of the people.

The German Films (1956 and 1958)

In 1956, Wolfgang Reinhardt (son of the famous stage director Max Reinhardt) made an offer of $10,000. By signing his offer, Maria unwillingly gave away all film rights (and the right to royalties). Not only did he make her believe she could not get any royalties from the German film - as she had meanwhile become a US citizen [insert] - but he even phoned a few weeks later asking her to accept $9,000 in cash at once. Maria needed the money and accepted.

[Check this out - another site says that she sold the book rights to a German company for $1500!* ]

The German film Die Trapp Familie" in 1956 and it´s sequel Die Trapp Familie in Amerika two years later became a big success not only in Germany but later also in Europe and South America.

It was Paramount Pictures that bought the film rights [from Maria or the German company? See above note] the same year (1956). After viewing the German film, Vincent Donahue, Broadway and television director, saw a perfect role for Mary Martin, a Broadway star he had worked with earlier  in her famous role in Annie get your gun.

The Broadway Musical (1959)

The musical The Sound of Music won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Book and Score.

The credits:

  • Mary Martin (Maria),
  • Theodore Bikel (Baron von Trapp)
  • Music by Richard Rodgers
  • Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
  • Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse

This final collaboration between Rodgers & Hammerstein was destined to become the world's most beloved musical.

The story (very different from reality):

When a postulant proves too high-spirited for the religious life, she is dispatched to serve as governess for the seven children of a widowed naval Captain. Her growing rapport with the youngsters, coupled with her generosity of spirit, gradually captures the heart of the stern Captain, and they get married.

Upon returning from their honeymoon they discover that Austria has been invaded by the Nazis, who demand the Captain's immediate service in their navy. The family's narrow escape over the mountains to Switzerland on the eve of World War II provides one of the most thrilling and inspirational finales ever presented in the theatre.

In the meantime Paramount had dropped the option and no longer owned the film rights, so Donahue contacted Maria in New Guinea, where she was doing missionary work. She did not answer his letters because she was not at all interested in her book being performed on Broadway. But Richard Halliday, Mary Martin´s husband and producer, did not give up and finally persuaded Maria to see his wife in Annie Get Your Gun. Maria was impressed and changed her mind. Halliday made a deal with the German producers and shared the royalties with Maria.

Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the music and acted as co-producers. The show had 1,443 performances, won six Tony Awards (one for Best Musical) and sold over 3 million albums. It was the filming of the story that, however, made The Sound of Music world famous, and so popular that today nearly every English speaking child is raised with its songs.

On March 12, 1998, a revival of the Broadway musical The Sound of Music opened at the Martin Beck Theater in New York. Rebecca Luker and Michael Siberry played the Georg and Maria "von Trapp and Susan H. Schulman directed.

The Hollywood Movie (1965)

The first reviews of the film were extremely negative. The premiere party was like the wake of a funeral. But the initial slow business turned into a phenomenon as The Sound Of Music became the most successful film of all time in 1965, surpassing even Gone With The Wind (1939). The Hollywood Studios, including Fox, saw salvation in Musicals. Many such as Doctor Dolittle (1967) and On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970) lost millions of dollars. Bitter film executives who failed to cash in or who were fired because of being copycats blamed The Sound Of Music for ruining the movie business.

One person who had a great time was Maria von Trapp who made a brief cameo in the film. She loved how Hollywood changed things. So what if in real life the Von Trapps had no problem getting out of Austria and that their real problem had been getting past American immigration? Who cared if she had lashed out at her step-children when they wanted to quit their musical careers and had felt uncomfortable all living together out of a bus for eighteen years? And the best part was the handsome young actor they got to play the Captain. When she married Georg he was "old" (47 years is old!). The marriage had been more for security than for love. When introduced to Christopher Plummer who played the Baron, the former nun shocked him by greeting him with a big kiss on the lips. "My God, darling I wished my husband looked as good as you!"

Trapp Family Lodge

The chalet which the family turned into a lodge burned to the ground in 1980. The future loomed before them, and they immediately planned to rebuild. The new Trapp Family Lodge is built for the future with the flavor of the past. In 1983, thirty-three years after the Trapp family started welcoming guests to their 27-room lodge on 600 acres, they opened their doors to a new 93-room resort with the same old-world charm of the original lodge, but today sprawling on 2,700 mountainside acres.

Maria moved back to Vermont [when?] and managed the Trapp Family Lodge until her death in 1987. Her  youngest son, Johannes Georg (1939 - ) now owns and operates the Lodge.

The present

The surviving six children returned to Salzburg October 31 through to November 7, 2000. A British film crew of "Tyne Tees Television" recorded a documentary about the cinema success and its stars. Songs such as "The Hills are Alive" were recorded again, and scenes at the original locations were played again. The documentary "After they were famous" reported on the life stories of the six former members of the Trapp Family Singers and on their experiences and impressions during the filming in Salzburg all those years ago as well as its effects on their lives.

Today, most of the surviving von Trapp family live down-to-earth lives in rural Vermont, except for Agathe (1913 - ) who lives near Baltimore, Maryland, where she is working in a kindergarten [and where is Eleonore?]. The fictionalized play and movie, The Sound of Music, continue to captivate audiences around the world. Apart frm the 1998 Broadway revival, every year some 500 to 600 high schools perform their versions the show. The von Trapps take pride not in The Sound of Music, but in their own music—music that they performed together as a family for almost twenty years.

There now is a new generation of singing von Trapps, The von Trapp Children: Melanie, Amanda, and Justin von Trapp (ages 8 to 15 in 2005). They are following the musical tradition of their grandfather, Werner von Trapp (1915 - ), the fourth of Georg von Trapp's children. The children sang to an audience of over 4,000 people in San Diego at Horizon Christian Fellowship, and are performing to enthusiastic audiences wherever they go. [See their website:]
December 4, 1998: In Oostenrijkse klederdracht, en inmiddels bejaard, poseren de zes nog levende Von Trapp-kinderen voor de camera tijdens een ceremonie in New York. [Source]

Books by Maria Augusta von Trapp:

  • The story of the Trapp Family Singers (Vom Kloster zum Welterfolg). Philadelphia, Lippincott 1949
  • Around the year with the Trapp family, Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1952, New York, Pantheon 1955
  • A family on wheels: further adventures of the Trapp family singers, co-written with Ruth T. Murdoch. Philadelphia, Lippincott, c1959.
  • Yesterday, Today and Forever: The Religious Life of a Remarkable Family. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1952
  • Maria. Carol Stream, Ill., Creation House [1972]
  • Let me tell you about my savior. Green Forest, AR : New Leaf Press, c2000

Books by others:

  • Agathe von Trapp, Agathe: Memories Before and After the Sound of Music,
  • William Anderson, The World of the von Trapp Family, Kyuryudo Publishing Company, Japan (Year?)
  • Candice F. Ransom, Maria Von Trapp: Beyond the Sound of Music, Trailblazer Biographies
See also:
  • Trapp Family Lodge (Stowe, Vermont) -
  • K.u.K. Marinefriedhof (Austrian Naval Cemetery, Pula / Pola, Istria) -


  • Etty Simicich and Mario Majarich (excepts from Maria's book)
  • The Erljof -
  • 1998 photograph -
  • Georg von Trapp book -,, and others.
  • U.S. National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) - and
  • Google books -

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This page is compliments of Marisa Ciceran and Etty Simicich

Created: Sunday, June 26, 2005; Last Updated: Friday, November 09, 2012
Copyright © 1998, USA