Maria Augusta von Trapp (born Maria Augusta Kutschera in Austria on January 26, 1905; died March 28, 1987) was the matriarch of the Trapp Family Singers. Her story and that of her family's inception and escape from the Nazis during World War II is the inspiration for the musical The Sound of Music.
While a novice, studying to be a nun in a convent in Salzburg, Maria was asked to nurse one of the seven children of widowed naval commander Georg Ritter von Trapp. Maria and Georg fell in love and were married in 1927 after she had relinquished her vows. Having lost their fortune to the European side of the Great Depression in 1932, the family aimed to turn their shared love of music into a career. After performing at a festival in 1935, they became a popular touring act. Shortly after the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938, the family escaped to Italy and then to the United States. Calling themselves the Trapp Family Singers, the family — which now had ten children — became famous all over again, and were soon touring the world. They made their home at a farm in Stowe, Vermont, where they started a music camp.
Maria never intended to write anything of her life, but a friend persistently pleaded with her not to allow her story to be forgotten by others. She denied she had any writing skill whatsoever, but her friend was not to be put off and kept on asking her whenever they saw each other. Finally, one day, in desperation, Maria excused herself and went to her room for an hour to scribble a few pages about her life story, hoping to prove once and for all she was no writer. However, this displayed such natural writing talent that she reluctantly agreed to finish what she had started, and her jottings formed the basis of the first chapter of her memoirs. Her book, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, was a best-seller. It was made into two successful German films, and was later adapted into The Sound of Music, a phenomenally successful Broadway musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, which later spawned an immensely popular US motion picture.
In 1957 the Trapp Family Singers disbanded and went their separate ways. Maria and three of her children became missionaries in the South Pacific. Maria then moved back to Vermont and managed the Trapp Family Lodge until her death in 1987 at the age of 82. Maria von Trapp, her husband (Georg Ritter von Trapp died on May 30, 1947), and Hedwig von Trapp (1917–1972), the fifth child of Georg and Agathe von Trapp, are interred in the family cemetery at the Lodge.
Four of the couple's great-grandchildren currently perform as the Von Trapp Children. Maria von Trapp's granddaughter, Elisabeth von Trapp, is a singer whose concerts are a mixture of Gregorian chant, musical comedy, country and contemporary folk.
Books by Maria Augusta Trapp