‘Sound of Music’ Fills Salzburg Air

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'The Sound of Music' has been ignored in the Austrian city of Salzburg where the musical and most of its famous songs were filmed. Until now.

The tale of the Von Trapp family fleeing from the Nazis in 1938 has been taboo in the country that gave overwhelming support to Adolf Hitler and struggled for decades to come to terms with its guilt over the war.

Now that taboo is about to be broken when Salzburg's state theatre stages its first ever production of The Sound of Music.

The musical, which will be in German with English subtitles, will be performed for the first time next Sunday, then every week until June.

The first four performances have sold out and more than 90 per cent of seats have been booked until January.

Carl Philip von Maldeghem, 42, the artistic director of the 700-seat Landestheater, admitted that initially there had been strong resistance to the play.

''Some people felt it was still not right to put on a show that reminded Salzburg and the rest of Austria of its role in the war,'' he said last week.

For decades the city had been uncomfortable about the 1965 film, which stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. The Rodgers and Hammerstein stage version was first performed on Broadwaysix years later.

''Salzburg, like most of Austria, was unable or unwilling to confront its past for a long time,'' the director said. ''For those who were alive at the time the war was too close, the emotions too raw. They didn't want to talk about it.''

The first Sound of Music stage show in Austria was performed in Vienna in 2005 but the musical has never been popular in Austria or Germany.

There was also local resentment of the film version, which was dismissed as ''cheesy'' and an inaccurate Hollywood version of Austria in those difficult years.

But in recent years, the mood has changed as a new generation has come to terms with its history. And the city, which attracts tourists for its Mozart heritage (the composer was born there) classical music festival, architecture and skiing, wants to exploit more fully The Sound of Music's commercial possibilities.

Tours of locations made famous by the film have been running for years. They include Mirabell Gardens, where the children sang Do-Re-Mi, Nonnberg Abbey, where Maria was a nun, and the gazebo at Hellbrunn Palace, recreated in Hollywood studios for the song Sixteen Going On Seventeen.

But most visitors who take the tours are foreign – usually Britons or Americans – and there has been almost no interest from Austrians or Germans, many of whom have never heard of The Sound of Music.

Most who have first came across the musical when they travelled abroad. Mr Bammer was introduced to it by US tourists singing songs from the film on a bus from Munich to Salzburg.

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