Saturday, 16 August 2014

Mondsee, Austria

In the spring and summer of 1964 THE SOUND OF MUSIC was filmed, besides in the studio’s of Hollywood, in and around Salzburg in Austria. The film has become so popular that since the late 1960’s special bus tours visit locations from the movie. In German speaking countries, especially Austria, the film and the musical it is based on were never a success. Austrians do not recognize themselves in the way their country is depicted, for them it is “import folklore”, just like the boy with his finger in the dyke is an American story that the Dutch find hard to relate to.

However, film and musical are based on a true story, the autobiography of Maria von Trapp, a nun who left the convent to become the governess of the family of a captain. For their musical, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein made several alterations to the story for dramatic purposes, as did Ernest Lehman for his screenplay.

Salzburg, 8 July 2014
Since the old inner city of Salzburg is not suitable for buses, the tour mainly visits locations outside the city. Several companies offer this tour, all are in English. We choose a tour in the morning, leaving us time in the afternoon to visit locations in Salzburg by ourselves. Our guide spoke as if she was addressing five year olds and everyone had to sing and yodel with songs that were played on the bus.

The first stop was at Leopoldskron Castle. This rococo palace dates from 1736 and is located just outside the centre of Salzburg. It was chosen for the large terrace that faces the lake, Leopoldskroner Weiher. Several scenes are set on the terrace and Maria (Julie Andrews) and the children fall into the water during a boat trip on the lake. Nowadays the palace is a hotel and is being used for conferences. Only guests have access, therefore the bus stopped on the other side of the lake so it could only be watched from a distance.

The Sound of Music, 1:01:25
Leopoldskron Castle, 8 July 2014
The Sound of Music, 1:09:19
Leopoldskron Castle, 8 July 2014

During the audio commentary on the dvd director Robert Wise reveals, despite what our guide and the website of the palace are saying, that Leopoldskron is not in the movie because no permission for filming was given. Instead a replica of the terrace, including the fence with the statues of the sea horses, was build in the neighbouring garden of Bertelsmann. Viewed from the lake, this house and its garden are on the left of Leopoldskron.

Bertelsmann and Leopoldskron Castle, 8 July 2014

The gazebo was constructed in the garden of Bertelsmann especially for the movie. It can be seen during the song ‘Sixteen going on seventeen’ and when Maria and the captain (Christopher Plummer) kiss each other. These scenes were shot in Hollywood where a larger version of the gazebo was built which made it easier to film.

The Sound of Music, 0:34:22
The Sound of Music, 2:12:09

The Salzburg gazebo can be seen twice in the film, in the background when the baroness (Eleanor Parker) visits the captain. After filming was completed, the gazebo was presented to the city of Salzburg. Because the residents of Bertelsmann were often disturbed by tourists climbing the fences to see the gazebo up close, it was renovated in 1991 and moved to the nearby Hellbrun Castle Park. The door is locked to prevent people from walking on the benches, just like Liesl (Charmian Carr) in the film, because they could hurt themselves.

The Sound of Music, 1:04:02
The Sound of Music, 1:50:07
Hellbrun Castle Park, 8 July 2014

On our way to Mondsee, a third stop was made near the village of Sankt Gilgen situated near Lake Wolfgang. In the movie it can be briefly seen during the opening montage of aerial shots of Austria and Germany. The mother of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Sankt Gilgen and according to our guide she named her son after the lake. A quick search on the internet learns that the lake in the eighteenth century was known as Lake Aber and that Mozart was named after his grandfather.

The Sound of Music, 0:01:54
Sankt Gilgen, 8 July 2014

The final stop was at the basilica St. Michael in Mondsee where the marriage of Maria and the captain was filmed. The main reason for choosing this location was because permission was given to film inside the church. The exterior of St. Michael cannot be seen in the movie.

St. Michael, Mondsee, 8 July 2014

The interior of the church has hardly changed over the years, the organ and the main altar are still the same. The altar was made by Meinrad Guggenbichler at the end of the seventeenth century. The ceremony was filmed by day but for better lighting purposes the leadlight windows were covered.

The Sound of Music, 2:13:47
Organ St. Michael, Mondsee, 8 July 2014
The Sound of Music, 2:14:27
Main altar St. Michael, Mondsee, 8 July 2014
The Sound of Music, 2:16:17
Main altar St. Michael, Mondsee, 8 July 2014
The Sound of Music, 2:16:22
Main altar St. Michael, Mondsee, 8 July 2014

The chapel where Maria says goodbye to the nuns does not appear to be in the church at first glance. However, in the background ‘The birth of Jesus’ by Jacob Zanusi from 1742 can be seen. This painting is part of the altar on the right of the main altar. Thus, for this scene a large fence and a few extra pieces of decor were added to create the illusion of a secluded chapel.

The Sound of Music, 2:14:00
'The birth of Jesus' St. Michael, Mondsee, 8 July 2014
The Sound of Music, 2:15:45
'The birth of Jesus' St. Michael, Mondsee, 8 July 2014

When Maria walks down the aisle she passes an altar with a painting of Saint Wolfgang, patron saint of the ill in Mondsee. The altar was made by Meinrad Guggenbichler between 1679 and 1681. He has probably included himself as well on the painting as the man on the far left, looking at the spectator.

The Sound of Music, 2:15:17
Saint Wolfgang altar, St. Michael, Mondsee, 8 July 2014

Just like Salzburg the town of Mondsee, particularly the basilica, is popular among tourists because of the movie. The church has a small souvenir shop that sells a postcard with three photos that were made during filming of the wedding ceremony. The picture in the middle shows the fence in front of ‘The birth of Jesus’.

Screenshots © 20th Century Fox

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