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Franz Neumayer, Salzburg

Last of the Sound of Music Von Trapp Family Dies

The last member of the singing and dancing von Trapp family that inspired the Sound of Music has died aged 99 at home in Vermont, America.

The family fled their home of Salzburg in Austria when the Nazis arrived and ended up performing around America where this story eventually inspired the 1965 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical hit.

Maria Franziska, who was the last of the seven brothers and sisters from the von Trapp family who was still alive, died in her sleep aged 99.

Family friend Marianne Dorfer who runs the von Trapp Villa Hotel in Salzburg said: "It was a surprise that she was the one in the family to live the longest because ever since she was a child she suffered from a weak heart. It was the fact that she suffered from this that her father decided to hire Maria von Trapp to teach her and her brothers and sisters. That of course then led to one of the most remarkable musical partnerships of the last century."

Maria Franziska was born in 1914 in Zell am See which is in the province of Salzburg and in 1938 fled with her family.

The Sound of Music which told the story of the musical family every year attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to Salzburg even now, almost 50 years after it was made.

Maria was last back in Salzburg in 2008 when she flew back to the family home in Salzburg for the first time since she fled the Nazis in the 1930s.

The second-eldest daughter of Baron von Trapp visited the house she lived in just before it opens as a new hotel. The estate was confiscated by the Nazis during World War II and put at the disposal of SS police chief Heinrich Himmler, who had barracks built on the grounds for his men.

Following the death of Baron von Trapp's first wife, aspiring nun Maria Kutschera joined the family to teach the children, fell in love with the baron, and married him in 1927.

The family always sang and played instruments together, and having lost all their fortune in 1935 in the throes of the world economic crisis, their musical talent proved a saviour.

An opera singer heard the children sing in the park and entered them for a competition. Soon the von Trapps started to tour Europe and the United States as a family choir.

For Baron von Trapp, a staunch Austrian patriot and opponent of Adolf Hitler, his singing family also provided the escape ticket from the Nazi regime. The family did not return from a concert tour in the United States.

"Without the singing, we would have never made it to the United States," said von Trapp.

While The Sound of Music, one of the most successful films ever made, produced a series of well-loved musical hits like "Edelweiss" or "Sixteen going on 17", the family took exception to the way they were portrayed.

Julie Andrews starred as the aspiring nun Maria in the 1965 film, while Christopher Plummer played Baron von Trapp, who was depicted as a strict patriarch, obsessed with discipline.

"We were all pretty shocked at how they portrayed our father, he was so completely different. He always looked after us a lot, especially after our mother died," Maria von Trapp said in one interview before she died.

"You have to separate yourself from all that, and you have to get used to it. It is something you simply cannot avoid."

Her stepmother Maria had another three children with Baron von Trapp, and the family settled on a farm in Vermont in 1942.

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