The Sound of Music musical comes to Salzburg, Austria in a brand new production
How do you solve a problem like The Sound of Music in Salzburg? The Hollywood film starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer has a fanatical following in the English-speaking world.
But many Austrians can't sing a note of it.
It's partly because the piece celebrates a Hollywood fantasy vision of Austria. While it may be one of Fraulein Maria's favourite things, a self-respecting Austrian would ever eat schnitzel with noodles - only with potato salad, or possibly with chips.
The movie has rarely been shown on Austrian television, though there has been a stage production in repertory at Vienna's Volksoper since 2005.
"It's as if an Austrian author would make a film in German about the Mersey Sound with an Austrian crew in Liverpool and expect theLiverpudlians to think it is a great music film."
Homage to Austria
More sensitive still is the way the piece touches on Austria's Nazi past.
For decades Austria claimed to be the first victim of Nazi Germany, but in recent years people have come to acknowledge the extent of Austrian responsibility for the crimes of the Third Reich. The co-director of the musical at the Salzburger Landestheater, Christian Struppeck says some people in Salzburg still find the issue uncomfortable.
Even the star of the show, Uwe Kroeger, who plays, Captain von Trapp, had never seen the movie. "It's a strange journey for me because I was never intrigued," he told me. "I always liked the story but I never really liked the music, or I wasn't really into it until we actually now rehearsed it and I watched the movie.
City of Mozart
The directors have confidence in the musical, and have aimed this production squarely at a local audience.
It has been translated into German. "Doe, a deer, a female deer," has now become "Do, so wie der Donaustrom," which translates as "Do, like the Danube river" - something English speakers could find disconcerting.
But that still may not be enough to make this a hit. Reinhold Wagnleitner says the piece isn't necessarily to local taste. "Christopher Plummer referred to the film as the Sound of Mucus, and that explains a little bit in why the Austrians wouldn't be interested in the film so much," he told me. "Salzburgers prefer to think of their city as the city of Mozart."
His companion agreed. "I don't know it because I'm not English," she said. But I like music so maybe I will like the piece." The people of Salzburg still have to be convinced about The Sound of Music, but this production might be a very good place to start.
Here is a video:
This is very intriguing. As a child, I was told that The Sound of Music was very ... stretched (I mean, I grew up with people who had a lot to say about the subject), yet I thought the heart of the story was nice. It's a joy to hear that the script is finally getting doctored. I hope the changes fit in nicely with the rest of the show (I'm sure it will). As for the cast? Uwe Kroeger is not my choice to play Captain von Trapp. I would have preferred Thomas Borchert. Good luck to the cast. :)