Sunday, January 9, 2011

Agathe Von Trapp


AGATHE von Trapp, eldest daughter of the singing Austrian von Trapp family whose escape from the 1938 Nazi invasion was made famous in the film The Sound of Music, has died aged 97 in the US state of Maryland.

For the past five decades, after she and her siblings stopped performing as the Trapp Family Singers, she lived a quiet life as ''a virtual recluse'' in the historic town of Glyndon, near the state capital Baltimore.

She had been a kindergarten teacher's helper at a private Catholic school affiliated with the Sacred Heart Parish for many years, according to friend, Mary Louise Kane, with whom she lived.
In 2003 an article in the Baltimore Sun (parodying lines from a song from the film) claimed: ''She was 43 before she stopped relying on someone older and wiser and went to the grocery store and the bank herself.''
The article noted that in the movie that dominated the 1965 Academy Awards and broke box-office records, she supposedly came out of her shell at ''16, going on 17'', but the reality of her life was different.

''It's very strange for me; I've been living a very quiet life. All of a sudden, these people want to see me,'' she said at the time she published her autobiography in which she sought to set the record straight between fact and fiction.

She wanted people to know that her father, Captain Georg von Trapp, a widowed Austrian aristocrat who was played by Christopher Plummer in the film and Theodore Bikel on Broadway, was not cold, unfeeling and distant. She insisted he was a kind and loving father.

''Agathe von Trapp cried when she saw the show at its Broadway opening in 1959. She would have been just as enchanted as the rest of the audience had the characters' last name been Miller. But this was her family's name, and it was not her family's story,'' the 2003 Sun story said.

Among other modifications, the children's first names and sexes had been changed. In real life, Agathe von Trapp had an older brother, but in the musical the eldest child was a girl, Liesl.

As the eldest daughter, Agathe von Trapp had assumed that was her. But as a teenager she never had a boyfriend, much less a telegram-delivering Nazi.

''In those days, people didn't date like they do here, and teenage boys didn't deliver telegrams,'' she explained in 2003.

Agathe von Trapp said the nun (played by Mary Martin and later Julie Andrews) who became her stepmother was not a governess. She was a tutor for one of the von Trapp sisters, who was too weak from scarlet fever to make a 45-minute trek to school. And the children were quite well-versed in music by the time they met Maria, who went by the nickname Gustl.

Agathe von Trapp said the family did not cross the Alps to escape Austria. They crossed the street and boarded a train.

In the 2003 interview, she said she ''could have lived with'' all the inaccuracies ''had it not been for the musical's portrayal of her father''. She insisted he was nothing like the character.

In the 1980s, she began writing her version of the family history. She was initially weakened by a muscle disease and suspended writing for a long while. Once recovered, she went twice to Europe to dig through archives for the genealogy completed in 2000. ''At some point, she began to think of writing for a broader audience. But she wasn't sure she could write well enough. English isn't her first language, and she is dyslexic,'' the 2003 story said.

She had encouragement from her physician, Dr Janet Horn Yuspeh, who, with her husband Alan, financed the publication of 3000 copies of her memoir.

Dozens of Agathe von Trapp's hand-drawn maps, portraits and other illustrations from the past half-century are interspersed throughout her book, which is 211 pages plus a glossy section with family photographs.
The book, Agathe von Trapp: Memories Before and After The Sound of Music, chronicles the Trapp Family Singers, who toured for 20 years.

Agathe von Trapp was born in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. She sang with her siblings until she was 43. While in the musical group, she did not stray far from her stepmother, by then widowed and running the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont.

Agathe von Trapp and Kane, who worked at the lodge in the early 1950s, started a private kindergarten in Stowe. In 1958, when the town's public schools began offering kindergarten, they moved to Maryland, they established a private kindergarten on the grounds of Sacred Heart School in Glyndon.

Until their retirement in 1993, Agathe von Trapp and Kane lived on the Sacred Heart grounds.

While Kane taught, von Trapp kept house: tracking expenses, leading German music and art lessons, answering phones, supervising on the playground and making snacks.

For a while, von Trapp went by ''Miss Trapp'', dropping the ''von'' in an attempt to fend off questions about whether she was part of that family. When asked anyway, she sometimes said no.
Survivors include a brother, Johannes, and three sisters, Maria, Eleanor and Rosemarie.

Article via: The Age

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