Perhaps more than any other family in the world, the von Trapps’ history has been immortalized on stage and screen and has captivated the hearts of millions of fans all over the world. No other name conjures up such vivid memories or ardent admiration as does the name “von Trapp”. The legendary story of this musical family’s escape from Nazi Austria is one of the best-loved tales in recent history. But have you ever wondered how much of story told In “The Sound of Music” is exactly as it happened in real life?
In her book, “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers”, Maria von Trapp describes the turn of events which take her from Salzburg’s Nonnberg Abbey to the von Trapp villa as a teacher, and ultimately into her new role as mother to seven growing children. As the movie depicts, Maria Augusta Kutschera was a postulate at the Abbey who caused a few problems for the nuns, and also taught fifth grade to the Abbey’s schoolgirls. Her former life had been one of mountain hikes and constant activity, and she soon developed severe headaches as she transitioned into a cloistered life. Maria’s physician advised that she seek a different lifestyle, and it just so happened that the Reverend Mother had received a request from a certain naval officer for an in-home tutor for his sickly daughter. And thus Maria embarked on her journey into the von Trapp household.
Unlike the famous film’s story, Maria was not intended to be governess to all seven children; but before long Maria’s vivacity and music had brought all the children together in song and activities, and the obligatory separation of the age groups, which was typical for the upper class at that time, ceased to exist. As Maria’s original pupil recovered, she became governess to all seven Trapp children and encouraged them in sports, handiwork, and, of course, music.
Contrary to general thought, the von Trapp children knew much of music, and the Captain is reported to have said that his children often did nothing but sing all day long. But Maria did introduce the family to many Austrian folk songs and taught them to harmonize the parts.
As Maria’s stay with the family continued, the children and the Captain became attached to her and did not relish the thought of the day when she would return to the Abbey. A few things stood in the way of her permanency there, however. Firstly, the Captain felt obligated to continue his courtship with Princess Yvonne, the real life “Baroness Schrader” who was a distant cousin of his deceased wife. Secondly, Maria herself was not in love with the Captain and anticipated her return to her former life. But as matters moved along between the Princess and Captain von Trapp, he realized that he loved Maria and not the Viennese countess. So the day he had planned on proposing to Yvonne, he instead broke off their relationship with intentions of marrying Maria.