The Sound of Music through the lens

Who doesn’t remember it? Fifty years after one of the most famous musicals of all time hit the stage, Asif Jiffry takes a photographic journey to Salzburg, where it all happened

How do you solve a problem like The Sound of Music? The film that was to become one of the most successful productions in movie history was first screened in 1965. This year celebrating the 50th anniversary of its Broadway premiere, The Sound of Music remains as popular as ever.

Following the enormous success of the stage musical “The Sound of Music” -written and composed by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein - the work was performed on Broadway almost 1500 times. It won six Tony awards and sold more than three million records.Robert Wise produced and directed the film version that starred the fresh-faced golden-voiced Julie Andrews as Maria and Christopher Plummer as the handsome, unbending Captain Von Trapp, surrounded by a truly enchanting cast of children.

Nonnberg Abbey:Where the original Maria came from and where some of the film’s most memorable scenes are set

The film was nominated for 10 Oscars and went on to win five- for Best Film, Best Director, Best Sound Recording, Best Script and Best Musical Adaptation. For Julie Andrews, who took the lead role, the film heralded the start of an incomparable international film career. She once said in an interview that she considered it an honour to have been involved in a film which had brought so much happiness to so many people. 

Yes indeed. Generations have grown up delighting to the music and singing the songs ‘Climb Every Mountain’, ‘My Favourite Things’, Do-Re-Mi’, ‘How Do You Solve A problem Like Maria’, ‘Edelweiss’ and more. I was a kid when I caught ‘The Sound of Music’ fever. As a child growing up in tropical South Asia, watching Julie Andrews dancing up the mountain slopes with the Von Trapp children, with castles and lakes as the backdrop, I had no inkling if that was for real.

This summer it couldn’t have been more real as we travelled through East Germany, Zurich and finally to Austria and Salzburg, where it all took place in the beautiful city on the northern end of the Alps, with castles and cathedrals poised on hilltops, surrounded by the majestic mountains. Salzburg is small enough to walk your way around yet big enough to get lost in its labyrinth-like alleys.

There will only be two reasons why you would stop at Salzburg. Either you love Mozart or you’re a die-hard fan of The Sound of Music My first stop in Salzburg is Mirabell garden, located between the train station and the city centre. Built in the 18th century, this is the garden where Maria Von Trapp and the children of the Von Trapp family dance around the fountain, singing ‘Do Re Mi’.

Next to the garden is the Mirabell castle which today houses the office of Salzburg’s Bürgermeister (Mayor) and the Municipal administration. This is without a doubt a must visit place whether you love The Sound of Music or not. There are awesome views of the city and the fortress from here.

The Fortress: Seen in the early part of the film
Mondsee Cathedral: Where Maria marries Captain Von Trapp

On the way to the city centre, you will pass by MozartSteg bridge. It is located near the Mozartplatz and you can’t miss it. In the film, you can see this bridge when the Von Trapp children go out for the first time to town.

My next “Sound of Music” location is Nonnberg Abbey, the oldest convent in the north of Alps (since 715 A.D). It is from here that the real Maria Von Trapp came to the family to be the children’s governess. The abbey can be reached by climbing a mountain and can be seen early on in the movie (when the nuns sing the Maria song ‘How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria), when the kids come to the abbey to ask for Maria von Trapp and at the end of the film (the car chase scene).

The next must-visit “Sound of Music” location is a little bit out of town (25 minutes from the town by bus). Hellbrunn Palace used to be the summer residence for the Archbishops of Salzburg. The main attraction, apart from its “magical fountain”, is Hellbrunn gazebo! The gazebo was built by the film crew and it is here that Liesl sang the famous ‘I Am Sixteen Going On 17’.

Then there’s Leopoldskron Castle where the family lives, where they drink lemonade with the Baroness on the terrace, where Maria dances with the Captain in the balcony, where the children fall into the lake… a fantastic place to visit given its setting with the tranquil lake and lawns.

If you are a fan of the film, you will definitely enjoy your visit to Salzburg. As you walk around the city centre, you will recognize some of the places from the film and revive your Sound of Music experience. And even if you’ve never watched the film, you can still enjoy the beautiful architecture of this Austrian city.

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