​Q: What is the storyline for the The Sound of Music  musical?
A:  The backdrop is pre-War II, the story takes place in 1938, in Salzburg, Austria. It centers on a widowed Austro-Hungarian naval Baron and Captain, his seven children, and their governess.  While predominantly a musical, it's a story about a family who ultimately chooses to leave home and country rather than support the Nazi regime. The story was inspired by the real-life von Trapp family.

Q: How similar is the movie to the von Trapp's real story?

A: Both the real-life von Trapp family and the fictionalized The Sound of Music  story share common themes of family loyalty, principled decision-making, and a passion for music. Although, some of the facts between the two stories differ, the essence is similar.

  • Some similarities include:​
    • Georg von Trapp was the Baron's name.
    • Georg had been one of the most decorated WWI commanders of the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Navy. 
    • Georg was a widower with seven children. His first wife, Agathe Gobertina Whitehead, had passed away in 1922 of Scarlet Fever.
    • Georg's favorite flower was the Edelweiss, because it is beautiful and  flourishes in high elevations amidst challenging conditions.
    • Georg did call his children with a boatswain whistle. (But unlike the film, the practice was in the spirit of fun and to educate his children to be safe sailors in preparation for their family trips to the Adriatic Sea.)
    • Georg had been approached by the Nazi party to fly their flag on his home, perform at Hitler's birthday, and serve in the German navy. Georg refused all three requests. Subsequently, fearing for their safety, he and his family together decided to leave Austria.
  • Some differences include:
    • One of the biggest differences between fact and fiction is the portrayal of Baron Captain Georg von Trapp. In the musical he is a stern, distant father. In reality, his own children describe him as loving, attentive, and gentle. His quite steadfastness encouraged the joy of making music together with personal instruction in musical instruments. Georg inspired a love of nature and the outdoors, self sufficiency, and steered his children's talents in to the creative arts. The real von Trapp children where deeply hurt by the portrayal of their father in the musical, and continue to educate the public about his true nature. Over time they've come to appreciate the joy the musical has brought to the world.
    • Georg and Agathe's childrens' names and birth order were changed. In real life, their oldest child was Rupert (portrayed by Frederick and second oldest in the musical), next was Agathe named after her mother (Liesl and oldest in the musical), then came Maria (Louisa), Werner (Kurt), Hedwig (Brigitta), Johanna (Marta), and Martina (Gretl).
    • Maria Augusta Kutschera is represented by 'Maria Rainer' in the musical and unlike the film's portrayal of her as the family's nanny, she came to the von Trapp household to tutor Georg's daughter, Maria, who had some health issues that temporarily prevented her from attending school.
    • Another difference is the timeline. In the musical, for ease of story-telling, all the events took place during 1938. However, in real life the events take place over a ten year period. As a result, by the time the family left Austria, the older von children ranged from 7 to 27 and the younger were 11 and 9 respectively.

Q: Did the family really escape over the Alps, like in The Sound of Music?
A: While hiking over the alps makes for great cinematic storytelling, in reality the family fled by train with few belongings. They had been singing professionally for a few years earlier and under pending performances abroad were able to depart to Italy.

Q: What did the family do after they left Austria?
A: For the next 17 years, they gave over 2,000 performances in venues ranging from high school auditoriums to iconic concert halls, bringing joy and comfort to over 3 million people throughout 30 countries. In their day, they were a household name within the United State and Europe and became known as "the most booked attraction in US history".

Q: Did the family get rich from The Sound of Music?
A: In 1956, Wolfgang Reinhardt approached Baroness Maria Kutschera von Trapp with the interest of turning her book, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers  into a German movie. Reinhardt and his associates offered her an immediate cash advance of $9,000 for the rights to her story. Without consulting a business manager, she accepted. The contract did not include royalties and therefore the family did not receive any additional revenue once the film became successful in Germany. Reinhardt later sold his rights to Rodgers and Hammerstein for the creation of the award-winning Broadway play. Subsequently the rights were sold to 20th Century Fox  for the making of the 1965 hit, The Sound of Music. Comparatively, the family has not profited significantly from the global cultural phoenoman. 

Q: Was the "Baron and Captain" really a Baron and Captain?
A: Yes. Baron Captain Georg von Trapp was born as a Ritter (meaning Knight) with the 'von' title, a hereditary title inherited his father Captain August Ritter von Trapp. Georg followed his father into the navy and earned distinction in his own right. Notably, during WWI, he became a submarine captain in the Austro-Hungarian Navy. In recognition of Georg's exemplary service, he was later elevated to Baron. 
Learn more about the real Captain.

FAMILY: Frequently Asked Questions

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 Celebrating the von Trapp musicians who inspired the musical The Sound of Music