Sound of Music comes to Salzburg

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA (AP) - Move over Mozart. Toes in Salzburg are tapping to a new beat as residents finally embrace the Hollywood musical that put them on the map nearly half a century ago.

Playing for the first time in this haughty town of opera lovers, “The Sound of Music,” has been met with surprisingly positive reactions in what is commonly considered a last bulwark of resistance to the iconic show.

“A wonderful performance,” enthused Johann Fink as he waited at the coat check at the end of a recent performance at the ornate Salzburg State Theater.

Such a reception in Salzburg is hardly a given despite the global popularity of the musical that was based on a true story and immortalized by the 1965 multiple Academy Award winning movie.

Fans around the world may know every word of every song performed by Julie Andrews as the governess of seven children who charms _ then weds _ their widowed father Baron von Trapp, before the singing family flees the Nazis.

But this city resonates to another sound of music _ the music of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms.

And it has a different concept of culture.

While residents earn millions each year from the tourists who come for sing-along tours of sites featured in the film, they traditionally view the visitors with benign disdain _ and occasionally as pests.

Residents of the upscale Salzburg neighborhood where the von Trapp home is located tried _ and failed _ to block attempts to turn the edifice into a hotel, fearing tourists would tie up traffic and make a nuisance of themselves. A museum dedicated to the film is still looking for a home after more than 600 residents in another neighborhood signed a petition three years ago against it, telling the city council they feared that local streets would be jammed with tour buses.

Resistance persists even though the city would literally be poorer without the musical’s magnet effect.

Peter Proetzner, who guides daily bus-fulls of tourists on pilgrimages of the sites immortalized by the film, cites a poll showing the Sound of Music as the city’s second biggest draw _ right after the dozens of classical music events that resonate through its cobblestoned alleys.

“The Sound of Music is better known than Mozart worldwide,” he asserts.

South Koreans learn the songs as part of their English lessons. Some foreigners think “Edelweiss” _ composed for the musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein _ is Austria’s national anthem. And Austrian tourism surveys show that three out of four American visitors to Salzburg come because of the musical.

Australian Dianne Cole says she knows “absolutely nothing” about Austria _ and will probably go home still ignorant of the country’s cultural, scenic and culinary delights.

“This is why I came to Austria,” she said recently, as her Sound of Music tour bus set out for its first stop _ Leopoldskron Lake (where Maria and the children capsized their boat). “The sole reason is to do this tour.”

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