Maria Augusta Kutschera von Trapp
Maria Augusta Kutschera, Baroness von Trapp, is the matron of the Trapp Family Singers, whose autobiographical story of her family's inception and their escape from the Nazis during World War II was the inspiration for the musical The Sound of Music.
She was born just before midnight on January 26, 1905 aboard a train travelling to Vienna, the daughter of Karl Kutschera and Augusta Rainer. Her mother died of pneumonia when she was two and her father then left her in the care of her strict, elderly uncle and his family, so that he could travel across Europe with his work as an engineer. Maria continued to visit her father until he died when she was nine. Initially she was cared for by an elderly cousin [or the uncle?] with grown-up children, then by her (who is her?) son-in-law, who was a judge, but mentally unstable and who abused her physically. There were no other children living in the house, so her childhood was rather isolated.
After school she went to a teachers' college, but then experienced a radical religious conversion. Maria, unlike her onscreen depiction as being deeply religious, was not so in real life, as she was raised to be an athiest and socialist and became actively cynical towards all religions.
Her indifference to religions, however, was dramatically altered one day, when she entered a busy church, believing that it was a Bach concert. Instead, the crowds had formed to listen to Father Kronseder, a visiting Jesuit priest, whose preaching and wise words captivated Maria. She began to believe in a religion she had once cynically disregarded. Maria said: "I had heard from my uncle that all of the Bible stories were inventions and old legends, and that there wasn't a word of truth in them. But the way this man talked just swept me off my feet. I was completely overwhelmed by it". When he finished his sermon and came down the pulpit stairs Maria grabbed his elbow and loudly asked, "Do you believe all this?" She met with the priest a few days later, deciding to tell him what was wrong with his beliefs, but his confidence in his beliefs greatly impressed her. Maria's own religious beliefs became stronger, and after she had graduated from college with a degree in education, she became a postulant in 1924 in Nonnberg Abbey, a Benedictine convent in Salzburg.
Maria's life of religion and seclusion was a far cry from her tomboy days of climbing mountains and getting into all sorts of mischief. Maria thrived on being outdoors and being active.Therefore, the effects of her less active lifestyle at the abbey meant her health began to suffer: she was beginning to have regular headaches, which the doctor diagnosed as being due to a lack of fresh air and exercise. In 1926, while she was still a postlant, the Mother Abbess decided to send Maria to the Trapp villa in Aigen, Salzburg, to a position as governess to Maria, one of the youngest daughter of Baron Georg von Trapp, a wealthy retired naval captain who was widowed. The child was bedridden with rheumatic fever [or scarlet fever?].
Despite the Mother Abbess promising Maria that she would return to the abbey after nine months in the job of governess, Maria never did return. Instead, she fell in love with Captain von Trapp, and they were married on November 26th, 1927 after she had relinquished her vows.
Though Maria was intensely devoted to her convent, she was taken away from the outdoor activities she once thrived on. Her doctor was concerned her health was failing due to a lack of fresh air and exercise. This was when the decision was made to send Maria to the home of retired naval captain Georg von Trapp. Her position was not governess to all the children, as the movie portrayed, but specifically to the captain's daughter who was bedridden with rheumatic fever. The rest is truly history. Maria never returned to the convent and married the Captain on November 26, 1927. This is the story that has been fictionalized and immortalized by "The Sound of Music."
Maria never intended to write anything of her life, but a friend persistently pleaded with her not to allow her story to be forgotten by others. She denied she had any writing skill whatsoever, but her friend was not to be put off and kept on asking her whenever they saw each other. Finally, one day, in desperation, Maria excused herself and went to her room for an hour to scribble a few pages about her life story, hoping to prove once and for all she was no writer. However, this displayed such natural writing talent that she was reluctantly forced to agree to finish what she had started, and her jottings formed the basis of the first chapter of her memoirs. Her book, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers (1949), was a best-seller. It was made into two successful German films, Die Trapp Familie (1956, shown in English as The Trapp Family) and the sequel Die Trapp Familie in Amerika (1958). It was also adapted into the phenominally successful Broadway musical The Sound of Music (1959) by Rodgers and Hammerstein and starring Mary Martin, which then spawned the immensely popular but fictionalized Hollywood movie The Sound of Music (1965). In the film, Maria was played by Julie Andrews.
She died on March 28, 1987 of heart failure in Morrisville, Vermont. Maria von Trapp, her husband, and Hedwig von Trapp (1917-1972), the fifth child of Georg and Agathe von Trapp, are interred in the family cemetery at the Lodge.
This page is compliments of Marisa Ciceran
Created: Sunday, June 26,
2005; Last Updated:
Wednesday, February 11, 2015