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Last of von Trapp family singers Maria dies at 99

Maria von Trapp and her family were portrayed in the 1965 film The Sound of Music. Picture: Reuters

Maria von Trapp and her family were portrayed in the 1965 film The Sound of Music. Picture: Reuters

  • by MARGARET NEIGHBOUR
 

The last surviving member of the famous Trapp Family Singers, made famous in The Sound Of Music, has died at her home in the United States. Maria von Trapp was 99.

Her brother Johannes von Trapp called her a “lovely woman who was one of the few truly good people”.

The family won acclaim throughout Europe for their singing, and escaped from Nazi-occupied Austria in 1938.

Their story was turned into the film and Broadway musical. Maria von Trapp is the second-eldest girl and was portrayed as Louisa in The Sound Of Music.

The family moved to Vermont in the US in 1942 after visiting during a singing tour and holidaying there. They opened – and still operate – a lodge in the state.

Maria von Trapp was the last surviving member of the seven original Trapp Family Singers made famous in The Sound Of Music.

Their story was turned into a Broadway musical in 1959 and the 1965 film, which won the Oscar for best picture.

She was the third child and second-oldest daughter of Austrian naval captain Georg von Trapp and his first wife, Agathe Whitehead von Trapp. Their seven children were the basis for the singing family in the musical and film.

The Sound Of Music was based loosely on a 1949 book by a governess to the children who became Capt von Trapp’s second wife, also called Maria. She died in 1987.

It told the story of an Austrian woman who married a widower with seven children and taught them music.

In 1938, the family escaped from Nazi-occupied Austria and performed concert tours throughout Europe, followed by a three-month tour of the United States.

Baron von Trapp died in 1947, but his family continued to tour until 1955.

Maria played accordion and taught Austrian dance with sister Rosmarie at the Vermont ski lodge.

She wrote in a biography posted on the Trapp family website that she had been born in the Austrian Alps after her family fled from fighting in the First World War and that she was ­surrounded by music growing up.

“Father played the violin, accordion and mandolin. Mother played piano and violin,” she wrote. “I have fond memories of our grandmother playing the piano for us after meals.”

Her biography on the website also said that she had worked as a lay missionary in Papua New Guinea.

Her half-siblings, Rosmarie, Johannes and Eleonore, were born to Georg von Trapp and his second wife and are still alive.

Johannes said of Maria: “There wasn’t a mean or miserable bone in her body. I think everyone who knew her would agree with that.”

Marianne Dorfer, a family friend who runs the von Trapp Villa Hotel in Salzburg, told the Austrian Times that Maria had suffered from a weak heart since childhood.

Ms Dorfer said it was because of Maria’s ill heath that her father had decided to hire a governess.

“That, of course, then led to one of the most remarkable musical partnerships of the last century,” she said.

 

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