'Sound of Music' comes home for the first time
It is a story that was turned into one of the world's most successful films and performed in theatres in many countries. But The Sound of Music has been ignored in the Austrian city where the musical and most of its famous scenes were filmed.
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, and 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.
Karl-Philippe von Maldeghem, 42, the artistic director of the 700-seat Landes-theatre, admitted that initially there had been strong resistance to the production.
"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 film, which stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer and was released in 1965, six years after the Rodgers and Hammerstein stage version was first performed on Broadway.
"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 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. In recent years, the mood has changed as a new generation has come to terms with its history.
Tours of locations made famous by the film have been running for years. But most visitors who take the tours are foreign, and there has been almost no interest from Austrians or Germans, many of whom have never even heard of The Sound of Music.
The real von Trapp family on whom the story was based welcomed the new production. Sam von Trapp, 39, Maria's grandson, said: "It's great that The Sound of Music is going back to its home city.
"It's a story about a brave Austrian man who stands up for his beliefs."