Tonight: Carnegie Hall Presents the Sound of Music

in a special one-night-only performance of the classic Broadway musical

Jane Levere, Contributor FORBES LIFESTYLE | 4/24/2012 @ 11:13AM

Youngest von Trapp Child Discusses 'The Sound Of Music'

Tonight’s gala concert performance of The Sound of Music at New York’s Carnegie Hall will reunite one of Maria von Trapp’s ten singing children with an actor from the 1965 film of the beloved musical.

Johannes von Trapp, the youngest child of Baron Georg von Trapp and Maria Kutschera, is an honorary chair of the gala, while Daniel Truhitte, who played Rolfe, the suitor of Liesl, a von Trapp daughter in the film, will appear in the concert as Baron Elberfeld, a guest at a party given by the baron.

Johannes von Trapp, now 72 and the owner of the Trapp Family Lodge, a resort in Stowe, VT, said he was “looking forward to being in New York.  It will be exciting, it will bring back memories of the opening night (of the Broadway production, in 1959), meeting Marlene Dietrich at the St. Regis after-party.”

Von Trapp and three of his sisters—Maria, Rosmarie and Eleanore, all of whom also live in Vermont—are the four surviving von Trapp children; seven were born to Baron von Trapp and his first wife, while the last three were born to von Trapp and his second wife, Maria, the nun who took care of the children after von Trapp was widowed.  The children performed as the Trapp Family Singers throughout Europe before World War II and later in the United States, where Johannes was born; he sang with his siblings from age seven to 17, until 1956, when they stopped performing.

Von Trapp said his mother had a “good relationship” with Mary Martin, who portrayed her in the Broadway musical–written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II and inspired by a book by Maria that was turned into a 1956 German film–and with Richard Halliday and Leland Heywood, the musical’s producers with Rodgers and Hammerstein.   However, he said the musical’s filmmakers “kept us at arm’s length.”

The Trapp Family Lodge predates both the Broadway musical and film, he said.  “My mother loved having people around.  When we were away traveling, there were empty rooms and the ski industry was just starting.  It seemed to make sense to rent out the rooms when we weren’t here.  That’s how we stumbled into the resort industry,” he said.

Von Trapp called the musical’s enduring popularity “pretty amazing.  It does handle a whole bunch of universal themes, family, love of family, love of a man and a woman, love of country, good versus evil.”

The film is “surprisingly” even a “huge” success in China, he added.

Discussing both the Broadway and film versions of The Sound of Music, von Trapp’s sister, Maria, says on the Trapp Family Lodge Web site: “The Sound of Music is a musical and was never meant to be a documentary about our life. Rodgers and Hammerstein were inspired to write it after reading our mother’s book, The Story of The Trapp Family. As we had given all of our rights to the German film company, we had no control over the content of The Sound of Music.

“When I first saw The Sound of Music, I was disappointed by the way father was represented. This came to me one day during a stage show in California, after which the stage father apologized that he was obliged to misrepresent my father – we had discussed this problem before the show. I told him about the resolution that came to me during the performance about my father’s true character of principles and as someone who acted upon them. My feelings of disappointment were no longer a problem from that moment on.

“A common question of the Trapp family is which family member is played by the movie characters? The names of the movie characters are not the real names of the sons and daughters” of the von Trapps.

Truhitte said he was the last person cast in the film version of the musical.

“There was no time for a screen test.  They gave me a scene to read, to see if I could be believable.  I was a very strong dancer,” he said.

Truhitte–who is 69, lives in Concord, N.C., and continues to perform–said the film’s exteriors were shot in Austria, where the von  Trapps had lived, the interiors in Hollywood.

The film, he added, “had wonderful music, a wonderful director and choreographer, wonderful, gifted people.  We knew it was pretty special, but we didn’t know it would endure.”

The Carnegie Hall concert also will feature Laura Osnes, who has appeared in Bonnie & Clyde and Anything Goes on Broadway, as Maria Rainer; Tony Goldwyn, from Broadway’s Promises, Promises and the film version of Ghost, as Captain von Trapp; film and Broadway actress Brooke Shields as Else Schraeder; and Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe as the Mother Abbess.  It will benefit the music education and community programs of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute.