The Sound of Music

Missing image
Julie Andrews as Maria, seeks guidance from the Mother Abbess, played by Peggy Wood, in this scene from the 1965 film version.

The Sound of Music is a Broadway musical and movie based on the book The Von Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp. It contains many hit songs, including "Edelweiss", "My Favorite Things", "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," "Do-Re-Mi," and "The Lonely Goatherd", as well as the title song.


Plot Outline

In Salzburg, Austria, Maria, a woman studying to be a nun, is sent from her convent to be the governess of the seven children of a widowed naval commander, Captain Georg Ritter von Trapp. The children, initially hostile and mischievous, come to like her, and the woman finds herself falling in love with the captain. He was soon to be married to a baroness but he marries Maria instead. Maria teaches the children singing. Meanwhile, the Nazis take power in Austria as part of the Anschluss, and want Captain von Trapp back in service. However, during a singing performance in a theater, although they are guarded, the whole family manages to flee and walk over the mountains to Switzerland.

It should be noted that some details of the von Trapp story were altered for the play and the film. The real Maria was sent to be nurse to one of the children, not governess to all of them. The Captain's eldest child was a boy, not a girl, and the names of the children were changed (at least partly to avoid confusion, as the Captain's eldest daughter was also called Maria). The von Trapps spent some years in Austria after Maria and the Captain had married - in 1927 - they did not have to flee right away - and they fled to Italy, not Switzerland.


Early films

Two German films, Die Trapp-Familie (The Trapp Family, 1956) and a sequel, Die Trapp-Familie in Amerika (1958), were written by Herbert Reinecker and directed by Wolfgang Liebeneiner. Ruth Leuwerik played Maria, Hans Holt was von Trapp.

1959 Broadway musical

The Sound of Music, with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, opened on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on November 16, 1959, and starred Mary Martin as Maria and Theodore Bikel as Captain von Trapp.

1965 film

The film, which was released in 1965, was named Best Picture of the Year. Robert Wise won an Academy Award for Directing for the film, which stars Julie Andrews as Maria and Christopher Plummer as Captain von Trapp. Hammerstein died before the film was made, and two of the numbers added to the score were written solely by Rodgers: "I Have Confidence" and "Something Good".

1981 London Revival

In 1981, at producer Ross Taylor's urging, Petula Clark signed to star in a revival of the show at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London's West End. Despite her misgivings that at age 51 she was too old to play the role convincingly, Clark opened to unanimous rave reviews (and the largest advance sale in the history of British theatre at that time). Maria von Trapp herself, present at the opening night performance, described her as "the best" Maria ever. Due to an unprecedented demand for tickets, Clark extended her initial six-month contract to thirteen months. Playing to 101% of seating capacity, the show set the highest attendance figure for a single week (October 26-31, 1981) of any British musical production in history, as chronicled by The Guinness Book of Theatre. This was the first stage production to incorporate the two additional songs that Rodgers had composed for the film version.

2005 Vienna production

In February 2005, the musical premiered at the Volksoper in Vienna. It had never been performed before anywhere in Austria.


The musical has created a few misconceptions about Austria. Many people believe "Edelweiss" to be the national anthem—in fact, this song is nearly unknown in Austria. In fact, the "Sound of Music" itself is virtually unknown in the country, except in backpacker's hostels in Salzburg, where it is screened daily on DVD. The Ländler dance that Maria and the Captain shared was not performed the traditional way it is done in Austria.

Maria with her young charges.
Maria with her young charges.
In some publicity shots for the film, a noteworthy error can be seen in a market scene immediately preceding the "Do-Re-Mi" number: an orange crate is marked 'Made in Israel'; however, Israel did not exist in the 1930s. This error cannot be seen in the film itself.

Another error, noted by astute observers who know the geography, is that in the scene where the family is hiking up the mountain presumably toward safe ground, they are actually walking toward Austria.

During the extensive "Do-Re-Mi" segment, at one point Maria and the children run under an archway. As pointed out in one of the DVD's extras, the real Maria and one of her daughters can (barely) be seen starting to cross the road at that point.

The order of several of the songs is markedly different between the stage play and the film. One example is that in the play, "My Favorite Things" is sung at the convent. A couple of the songs were altered. "How Can Love Survive?" was reduced to an instrumental, one of several waltz numbers played at the party occurring just before intermission. The title song's four-line prelude ("My day in the hills has come to an end, I know..."), sung by Mary Martin in the stage play (available on CD), is reduced to an instrumental hint during the overture and dramatic zoom-in shot to Julie Andrews on the mountaintop at the start of the movie.

Despite the enormous popularity of the movie, which at the time became the second-largest grossing picture of all time (behind Gone With The Wind, and has continued through the present day, noted film critic Pauline Kael blasted the film in a review in which she called the movie "The Sound Of Mucus." This review allegedly led to Kael's being fired from her position as a film critic.

In 2001 the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

According to boxofficemojo (, the film ranks third in both all-time number of tickets sold (142,415,400) and in gross adjusted for inflation ($911,458,400) in North America (behind Gone with the Wind and Star Wars). Combine this with its success around the world in sales of tickets, videocassettes, laserdiscs, DVDs and its frequent airings on television, it is called "the most widely seen movie produced by a Hollywood studio" by (

The seven von Trapp children are five girls and two boys: Liesl (16 years old "going on 17"), Friedrich (14), Louisa (13), Kurt (11), Brigitta (10), Marta (6), Gretl (5).

The jazz musician John Coltrane adopted the tune "My Favorite Things" as his signature tune. His is a heavily modified version, played on the soprano saxophone, in which the initial theme ("Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens...") is repeated again and again, separated by long soloing vamps.

See also

Further reading

  • Hirsch, Julia Antopol (1994) McGraw-Hill; The Sound of Music ISBN 0809238373. Covers the story from the birth of the real Maria von Trapp through the making and successes of the Broadway and film musicals.
  • Books by Maria von Trapp:
    • (1949) Lippincott; The Story of the Trapp Family Singers ISBN 0060005777. The autobiography that started it all.
    • (1955) Pantheon; Around the year with the Trapp family
    • (1959) Lippincott; A family on wheels: Further adventures of the Trapp Family Singers
    • (1972) Creation House; Maria. Tells the entire story of Maria's life, up to 1972, and thus includes her thoughts on the musical.
    • (2000) New Leaf Press; Let Me Tell You About My Savior: Yesterday, Today & Forever/When the King Was Carpenter. combined reprint of (1975) New Leaf Press; Yesterday, Today & Forever, and (1976) Word Publishing; When the King was Sound of Music

he:צלילי המוזיקה id:The Sound of Music ja:サウンド・オブ・ミュージック nl:The Sound of Music sv:Sound of Music zh:音乐之声


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