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Last note of Sound of Music

Maria von Trapp

Feb. 23: Maria von Trapp, the last surviving member of the Trapp Family Singers who were immortalised in The Sound of Music, has died at 99.

One of the seven children of Austrian naval captain Georg von Trapp and his first wife Agathe Whitehead, Maria became “Louisa” in the film to prevent confusion with the captain’s second wife, also called Maria (Kutschera) and played by Julie Andrews. Maria Kutschera died in 1987.

The younger Maria was the third of the seven children and the second-eldest daughter. Her character, Louisa (portrayed by Heather Menzies), is fondly remembered in the film for flapping her arms and singing in a suspiciously saccharine American accent: “So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye, I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly.”

Had it not been for Maria’s weak heart and a bout of scarlet fever, the Trapp Family Singers would never have enchanted audiences and gone on to inspire one of the best-loved films of all time. The child’s condition prompted the captain to seek a tutor, a postulant nun Maria Kutschera. Von Trapp married the tutor three years later in 1927.

The family did not escape the Nazis in a daring ascent over the Alps, as depicted in the film, but took a train to Italy and eventually settled in Vermont in the US.

It was at her Vermont home that Maria died, said her half-brother Johannes, one of Georg and Maria von Trapp’s three biological children who do not appear in the film.