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Agathe von Trapp

Agathe von Trapp, who died on December 28, aged 97, was the eldest daughter in the Von Trapp family, who achieved immortality in the Broadway production and film of The Sound of Music.

Agathe Johanna Erwina Gobertina von Trapp was born on March 12, 1913, in the town of Pola, then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Her father, the Austrian naval officer Captain Georg von Trapp, would have seven children by his first wife, also named Agathe, who died of scarlet fever in 1922. Capt von Trapp subsequently married Maria Augusta Kutschera, a former tutor to his offspring, with whom he had three more children.

At the age of 11, Agathe was sent to school -- an experience she found "terrifying". "They made us stand up in front of a big class and talk. I never could get used to it," she later said.

After the captain was said to have lost much of his fortune in the failure of an Austrian bank, the family had begun singing folk songs and performing in public. They initially gave concerts in Vienna and Salzburg and then toured France, Germany, Belgium and Scandinavia.

In the 1930s they left Europe, and the threat of Nazism, for the US, where they settled and continued to perform as the Trapp Family Singers. They made their home at the Trapp Family Lodge, a 600-acre farm in Vermont. Capt Von Trapp died in 1947, and the singers eventually closed their careers in 1956, when Agathe was 43.

She had never lived an independent life, later claiming that until then she had never made a telephone call or written out a cheque.

Her first venture was to establish a kindergarten near the family home, but in 1958 she moved to Baltimore with a friend, Mary Louise Kane, with whom she remained for the rest of her life. There they opened their own Roman Catholic kindergarten, where Agathe took music, German and art lessons. The two women continued to run the school until 1993.

The Sound of Music was a hit on Broadway in 1959, winning eight Tony awards.

The film, released in 1965, won five Oscars, including one for best picture. Agathe appeared in the film as Liesl, played by Charmian Carr.

Agathe's response to the film was at best ambivalent. She admired it, but was distressed by the portrayal of her father as cool and distant.

"She cried when she first saw it because of the way they portrayed him," Ms Kane said. "She said that if it had been about another family she would have loved it."

In an attempt to rectify matters, Agathe began work on a memoir, Memories Before and After The Sound of Music, first published in 2004 and dedicated to her father.

She had started on the project in the 1980s, travelling to Europe to research her family history. She finally completed a genealogy in 2000.

The publication brought Agathe unaccustomed attention. "It's very strange for me," she said. "I've been living a very quiet life. All of a sudden, these people want to see me."

Agathe was a talented watercolourist, and according to Ms Kane continued to sing around the house until three years ago.

Four members of the Trapp Family Singers survive her: her brother Johannes and her sisters Maria, Eleonore and Rosmarie.

Sunday Independent