Charles Dickens, in a Preface to The Christmas Carol

“I have endeavored in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly.......” Charles Dickens, in a Preface to A Christmas Carol

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Sound of Music-Still Sweet on its 46th Anniversary of Success-With pictures from Department 56 Alpine Village Series

40th Anniversary Edition of Rogers and
Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music"

On April 28, 1966 the incomparable Rogers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music was named "Best Picture" of the year  at the Academy Awards.  Based loosely on the book by Maria von Trapp, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, the movie also won four other Academy Awards and was the highest grossing film up to its time. It is not overstating to say that The Sound of Music captured the heart of America.

Dept. 56, Alpine Village Series,
"Danube Music Publishers," #56173

Directed and produced by Robert Wise and starring Jullie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, the film had all of the elements of a great movie:  romance, humor and fun, gorgeous, wonderful costumes, talented actors, and a great story and score.

Department 56 has memorialized this movie with a series of Alpine Village pieces that would allow a collector to create a wonderful Sound of Music display.

Dept. 56, Alpine Village Series,
"Mozart Monument," #56313

The Sound of Music takes place in Salzburg Austria, a beautiful town in the shadow of the Alps that has a long tradition of music, especially since it is the birth place Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Dept. 56, Alpine Village Series,
"The Sound of Music Wedding Church," #56211

It is the story of Maria, played by Julie Andrews, who is a postulant (or candidate for entry) in an abbey in Austria.  It is by no means certain, to Maria, the other nuns, or the Mother Superior, that Maria is a good candidate to enter the order.

Dept. 56, Alpine Village Series,
"Sisters of the Abbey," 56213

In an early scene, a group of nuns expresses their frustration over Maria's carefree nature, and questions her suitability for taking vows.  Hammerstein wrote some of the most evocative lyrics in this song entitled "Maria," sung by the nuns.  Referring to Maria, Hammerstein writes,  "How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?"  "How do you keep a wave upon the sand?" "How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?"  To see a clip of the nuns from the movie singing "Maria," click on this YouTube link:

Dept. 56, Alpine Village Series,
"The Sound of Music von Trapp Villa," #56178

To give Maria time to consider whether or not she is suited for convent life, the Mother Superior sends her to act as a governess to Captain Von Trapp's 7 mischievous children.  Welcomed with a pinecone on her chair and a frog in her pocket, Maria has her hands full.  The 7 brothers and sisters have had their share of nannies, and they have decided Maria will be the next in a series to leave unexpectedly.  During a loud and frightening thunderstorm, however, Maria welcomes the children into her bedroom and sings the famous "My Favorite Things," with more of Hammerstein's wonderful images:  "Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings"and "Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes."  This, of course, wins the children's affection.  To see Julie Andrews singing "My Favorite Things" in the movie, click on this link:

Julie Andrews playing Maria in
The Sound of Music,
The real Maria von Trapp is in the background
on the left.

By the way, in the scene where Maria leaves the convent for the von Trapp home, she goes through beautiful scenes in Salzburg singing "I Have Confidence."  At the moment she crosses through a high arch, three people in the background cross the street.  Those are the real Maria von Trapp and two of her daughters.  The family had visited the set when the scene was being filmed, and the director asked them if they would like a cameo in the movie!

Julie Andrews, singing "Do-Re-Mi" from
The Sound of Music

Maria begins to teach the children about music, using the popular rendition of "Do-Re- Mi."  To see a clip of one of the renditions of "Do-Re-Mi" from the movie, click here: 

Dept. 56, Alpine Village Series,
"Kukkuck Uhren Alpine," 56191

A popular song that the children perform, while operating puppets, is "The Lonely Goatherd." The children's first public performance, however, is at a lavish party at the Von Trapp Family home. Just before the children leave the party for the evening, they sing "So long, Farewell." One of the memorable moments of the act is when the little children pop from behind their older brothers and sisters to sing "cuckoo," reminiscent of a traditional Black Forest cuckoo clock.   To see a clip of this great song from the movie, clink on this link:

Maria and Captain von Trapp dancing,
The Sound of Music
Despite the fact that Captain von Trapp is aloof and distant from his children, he cannot help but notice the affection they begin to display for Maria.  At the von Trapp gala, the Captain and Maria dance a traditional Austria together, and they realize they are attracted.  Mortified, Maria returns to the Abbey to take her vows.   Click here to see the traditional Austrian dance with the Captain and Maria:

Dept. 56, Alpine Village Series,
"Here Comes the Bride," #56300

The Abbey's Mother Superior understands that Maria is frightened and running away from a man she has grown to love.  She tells Maria to return to the von Trapp family.  By now, the Captain's fiance realizes he is in love with Maria, and she leaves.  Maria and the Captain, with full approval of the children and the nuns, marry in the Abbey.

Dept. 56, Alpine Village Series,
"The Sound of Music Gazebo," #56212

Among the various subplots of the movie is the budding romance between Rolf, the young man who is adopting Naziism, and Captain von Trapp's oldest daughter Liesle.  The two perform a duet in the pagoda, that in 1966 seemed sweet, and now strikes me as dated.  "You need someone older and wiser, telling you what to do.  I am 17 going on 18, I'll take care of you."   If someone said that to my daughter, I would say, "Run for the hills."  I would be right, or course, because ultimately, Rolf betrays the family to the Gestapo, and the family hides in the Abbey before escaping over the mountains to Switzerland.

In 2001 the US Library of Congress placed the film of The Sound of Music in the National Film Registry, as it was considered "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant. It continues to be one of the most beloved musicals of all time.


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