Carrie Underwood performs "Do-Re-Mi" in last week's broadcast of the Sound of Music, Live.

December 12, 2013

Vermont’s real von Trapps pan televised revival of 'The Sound of Music'

The singing family that inspired the musical has run a vacation lodge in the mountain town of Stowe since 1942.

By Lisa Rathke
The Associated Press

STOWE, Vt. — Even if it’s good for business, NBC’s revival of “The Sound of Music” wasn’t one of the von Trapps’ favorite things.

click image to enlarge

The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt., is lit up for the Christmas holidays. The von Trapp family members at the vacation lodge watched a televised revival of “The Sound of Music” on Dec. 5, and though the show was good publicity, they questioned the casting.

2004 Associated Press file

Three-quarters of a century after they arrived from Austria, and in the week since the televised version of the musical classic became a national topic of conversation, the singing family and the vacation lodge it runs in the hills of Vermont are in high demand.

And yes, the family was watching as Carrie Underwood, in a widely watched and panned performance, took over the role of Maria von Trapp, made famous on Broadway by Mary Martin and on film by Julie Andrews.

Kristina von Trapp, granddaughter of the real Maria von Trapp, who died in 1987, visited guests as it was shown at the inn in Stowe. And in a blog post, Francoise von Trapp, daughter of Maria von Trapp’s stepson Rupert, questioned the casting.

“For everyone who thought the whole thing was wonderful and that NBC did a spectacular job, I say maybe your expectations weren’t high to begin with,” she wrote. “If they hoped to have created a new holiday classic, I think they missed their mark.”

But they aren’t denying the musical is helping business, even if the majority of callers are merely curious and not making reservations.

“It definitely stirred up a lot of conversation wanting to know was the family watching, things like that,” said Jennifer Vincent, the lodge’s marketing director.

It wasn’t entirely unexpected. Whenever the movie starring Andrews and Christopher Plummer airs on television – typically around Christmas – the lodge gets a lot of traffic on its website and social media, Vincent said.

More than 18 million people tuned in to the revival, according to the Nielsen company. NBC plans an encore broadcast Saturday.

The musical and movie are a fictionalized account of the life of Maria von Trapp, telling the story of a 1930s Austrian governess who teaches her charges to sing and falls in love with her employer, naval captain Georg von Trapp, and the family’s flight during World War II.

They moved to Vermont in 1942 after visiting during a singing tour and vacationing in Stowe.

“They enjoyed the kind of quality of people that were here in Vermont,” said Sam Messer, who gives tours of the lodge. “They loved the kind of work ethic and stick-to-it-iveness.”

They built a rustic farmhouse and started taking in boarders. As a ski industry developed in the area, they expanded. Fire destroyed the house in 1980, but the family rebuilt.

One of the captain’s daughters, also named Maria von Trapp, would play accordion and teach Austrian dance with sister Rosemarie at the lodge. Rosemarie also taught her sons how to play the recorder, said Phoebe Everson, of Plattsburgh, N.Y., who has been a visitor for decades.

Four of the 10 von Trapp siblings are still alive, although none live at the lodge anymore. At least three are still in Vermont.

The 96-room chalet-style inn is the height of charm during the holidays. With its wide views of the mountains that reminded the family of their native Austria, the lodge is decorated with Christmas trees and poinsettias. In the restaurants, wiener schnitzel and apple strudel are on the menu, as well as the family’s beer and some dishes coming from the Scotch cattle and egg-laying hens they raise.

Photographs line the halls showing the von Trapp girls in Austrian-style dresses, or the family pouring concrete for the foundation and doing the haying and maple sugaring – which they still do.

Aside from a large network of cross-country ski trails, the inn offers fitness and yoga classes, snowshoeing, mountain biking, summer concerts and wine tastings, as well as occasional harp lessons – and frequent music.

On Christmas Eve, guests get a special treat: The von Trapp family sings Christmas carols with the guests. But no songs from “The Sound of Music.”

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