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‘Sound of Music’ family member now lives on Kauai


LIHUE >> When “The Sound of Music” was released in 1965, Bourgi von Trapp was 11 years old and living in Austria.

On Monday, the award-winning musical turned 50 and Bourgi, a newcomer to Kauai and the granddaughter of the real-life Captain Georg von Trapp, reflected on the iconic film based on her family’s life story.

Bourgi called it a beautiful modern myth — one her family has been delighted to see influence and mean so much to so many people.

“The Sound of Music has created happiness for people,” she said. “And I’m really happy about that.”

Those familiar with the film likely remember the sweet, brown-haired character Marta, the second-to-youngest von Trapp child played by a young Debbie Turner.

“I’m Marta, and I’m going to be 7 on Tuesday, and I’d like a pink parasol,” she tells Maria at the beginning of the film.

Marta’s character is based on Bourgi’s mother, Johanna Karolina von Trapp, a member of the von Trapp family of singers who escaped Nazi-occupied Austria during World War II.

Bourgi, who was born in Vermont and moved to Austria at age 7, said the real von Trapp story is different from that told in the movie.

“The movie is adorable, but it’s not realistic,” Bourgi said.

The beautiful parts of the movie were even more beautiful in real life, she said.

“And the horrific part was more horrific than anyone could ever imagine.”

But there’s a reason parts of the story were left out, she said. The film, she said, honors her family’s love for one another and their ability to stick together through the hardest of times.

“I think everybody is very touched by it that it has meant so much,” she said of the film. “It’s a timeless piece.”

Bourgi, a coordinator at Kealia Farm on Kauai’s Eastside, said her mother, who died in Austria in 1994, toured as a singer in the U.S. for 10 years and sang more than 800 concerts during that time. She also managed the family’s farm and music camp in Stowe, Vermont.

Bourgi said she was extremely close with her mother, knows her story well, and finds it fascinating to see how the family’s real-life story was transformed into a heartfelt classic people have enjoyed for five decades.

The film, released on March 2, 1965, follows the story of Maria as she leaves a convent and falls in love with Bourgi’s grandfather, Captain Georg.

Bourgi’s own story of coming to Kauai is also one for the books.

In 1966, a year after the movie’s release, her family was living in a castle in Austria where they hosted many people from around the world. That year, a 19-year-old American college student came to stay with the family for seven weeks to learn German. Bourgi was 12 years old at the time.

“He was a fantastic guest and very kind,” Bourgi remembered. “He and I became best buddies for an unforgettable summer. Life goes on and although he wrote my father, we children lost track of him.”

Nearly 50 years later, Bourgi found some letters the long-lost guest had sent to the family. As it turned out, that young college student from California became a dentist, Dr. John Black, who has been practicing on Kauai for 40 years.

After tracking him down through his high school in Santa Monica, Bourgi said Black invited her to Kauai. Today, as grandparents, the two are — as Bourgi put it — “ipo,” or sweethearts.

“We’re very in love,” she said.

“Our lives are interesting stories,” she added.

Bourgi’s father, Ernst Florian Winter, was an Austrian-American historian and political scientist and the first director of the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna, Austria. He died last year. Her mother Johanna died in Vienna after suffering a stroke at the age of 75.

Asked if she has carried on the family tradition of singing, Bourgi said that while she does enjoy the art, she is not a performer like other von Trapps.

“I sing because I like to sing,” he said.

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