|In this photo taken Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011, Wietske van Tongeren, right, in the role of Maria Rainer and Uwe Kroeger as Captain Georg von Trapp, left, perform with children during a dress rehearsal for the musical "The Sound of Music" by Richard Rogers in Salzburg, Austria. "The Sound of Music," is playing for the first time in this haughty city of opera lovers. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)|
SALZBURG, Austria (AP) - Move over Mozart. Toes in Salzburg are tapping to a new beat as
residents finally embrace the Hollywood musical that put them on the map nearly
half a century ago.
Playing for the first time in this
haughty town of opera lovers, "The Sound of Music," has been met with
surprisingly positive reactions in what is commonly considered a last bulwark
of resistance to the iconic show.
"A wonderful performance,"
enthused Johann Fink as he waited at the coat check at the end of a recent
performance at the ornate Salzburg State Theater.
Such a reception in Salzburg is hardly
a given despite the global popularity of the musical that was based on a true
story and immortalized by the 1965 multiple Academy Award winning movie.
Fans around the world may know every
word of every song performed by Julie Andrews as the governess of seven
children who charms - then weds - their widowed father Baron von Trapp, before
the singing family flees the Nazis.
|In this photo taken Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011, Actors perform on stage during a dress rehearsal for the musical "The Sound of Music" by Richard Rogers in Salzburg, Austria. "The Sound of Music," is playing for the first time in this haughty city of opera lovers. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)|
But this city resonates to another
sound of music - the music of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms.
And it has a different concept of
While residents earn millions each year
from the tourists who come for sing-along tours of sites featured in the film,
they traditionally view the visitors with benign disdain - and occasionally as
Residents of the upscale Salzburg
neighborhood where the von Trapp home is located tried - and failed - to block
attempts to turn the edifice into a hotel, fearing tourists would tie up
traffic and make a nuisance of themselves. A museum dedicated to the film is
still looking for a home after more than 600 residents in another neighborhood
signed a petition three years ago against it, telling the city council they
feared that local streets would be jammed with tour buses.
Resistance persists even though the
city would literally be poorer without the musical's magnet effect.
Peter Proetzner, who guides daily
bus-fulls of tourists on pilgrimages of the sites immortalized by the film,
cites a poll showing the Sound of Music as the city's second biggest draw -
right after the dozens of classical music events that resonate through its
"The Sound of Music is better
known than Mozart worldwide," he asserts.
South Koreans learn the songs as part
of their English lessons. Some foreigners think "Edelweiss" -
composed for the musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein - is Austria's national anthem. And Austrian tourism
surveys show that three out of four American visitors to Salzburg come because
of the musical.
Australian Dianne Cole says she knows
"absolutely nothing" about Austria -
and will probably go home still ignorant of the country's cultural, scenic and
"This is why I came to Austria," she said recently, as her Sound of
Music tour bus set out for its first stop - Leopoldskron Lake (where Maria and
the children capsized their boat). "The sole reason is to do this tour."
In contrast, most Salzburgers don't
even know the musical. In a city that traditionally raps American culture as
trashy, residents prefer to be associated with Mozart, Salzburg's favorite son,
instead of a film many write off as Hollywood kitsch.
And then there is the troubling Nazi
component of The Sound of Music - a reminder, reinforced by the Swastika flag
and storm troopers on stage, that not only Mozart, but Hitler, too, was
|In this photo taken Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011, Wietske van Tongeren, left, in the role of Maria Rainer performs with children during a dress rehearsal for the musical "The Sound of Music" by Richard Rogers in Salzburg, Austria. "The Sound of Music," is playing for the first time in this haughty city of opera lovers. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)|
has long shed its self-fabricated myth that it was a victim of Nazi atrocities
instead of one of its most fervent supporters. Restitution panels have returned
homes and precious artworks. Millions of euros (dollars) have been doled out to
Holocaust victims and their descendants, and schoolbooks now deal in depth with
this nation's complicity in the crimes of the Nazi dictator, born just 50
kilometers (30 miles) north of Salzburg.
"I think that this is truly the
right moment in time, when Austrians are actually ready to deal with their
past," says Andreas Gergen, who directed the German-language production.
Still, anti-Semitic sentiment remains.
A survey of 1,070 Austrians conducted earlier this year showed that 12 percent
want their country "free of Jews." Backed by the country's neo-Nazi
fringe, the country's rightist FPO party is the second-strongest in the country - although it now exploits Islamophobia instead of anti-Jewish sentiment.
And the sight of Nazis on stage may
remind some older audience members of uncomfortable historical facts. Over 99
percent of Austrians voted in favor of their country becoming part of the Third
Reich in 1938; proportionally more Austrians than Germans were Nazi party
members, and many of Hitler's closest henchmen were Austrians.
Like the Salzburg version, the first
full Austrian showing in Vienna in 2005 featured actors dressed as Nazi storm
troopers standing guard at exits and a theater box filled with mock Nazi
dignitaries - clearly too painful for some. Back then, some elderly audience
members who last witnessed brown-shirted men wearing swastika arm bands as
children were so troubled they hastily left the theater without watching the
Six years later, reactions to the Nazi
theme are mixed.
"Of course it's not so pleasant
for us Salzburgers to be confronted with it," said Judith Herbst. But the
smartly dressed woman in her mid 60s said that as far as she was concerned the
role of Austria in Hitler's crimes was no longer
For others, though, the sight of men in
forbidden Nazi garb entering the theater remains traumatic.
"It was horrible for a moment - almost unbelievable," said theatergoer Fink. "Thank God this era is
in the past!"
But there were no gasps of dismay
regarding the rest of the show.
Some hummed its ear-candy melodies at
the coat check after the performance.
"Kitsch? I was afraid that would
be the case," said Helmi Popeter. "But once you see it, you realize
that's not so."