Ein Weihnachtsgeschenk für alle (A Christmas gift for all): Die Trapp-Familie (1956) and Die Trapp-Familie in Amerika (1958) in their entirety.
Die Trapp-Familie looks familiar to American audiences, as 20th Century Fox’s The Sound of Music shamelessly ripped off its costume and set design, its color palette, and many of its scene compositions. But what the American movie lacked was the Viennese charm and humor of the original, as well as its two immensely glamorous stars, German-born Ruth Leuwerik (1924-2016) and Austrian-born Hans Holt (1909-2001).
Die Trapp-Familie in Amerika, however, although filmed in location in the States, is wonderfully unfamiliar and well deserves a viewing: New York’s Lower East Side and the rich melting pot of immigrant life, as idealized by post-war European filmmakers. The struggle of the von Trapps as penniless political refugees isn’t ignored, but for the most part their story is told light-heartedly.
Pay attention, as well, to the music, especially in Die Trapp-Familie in Amerika. Grothe, a popular composer in Germany (he remained in Germany throughout the war, a reluctant Party member) composed a creditable Gershwin-like score for this sequel, particularly in the underscoring of a quiet scene between Georg and Maria gazing out at the Brooklyn Bridge while worrying about their family’s future (21:22). In German and English.
Elisabeth is a Viennese, German-language musical commissioned by the Vereinigte Bühnen Wien (VBW), with book/lyrics by Michael Kunze and music by Sylvester Levay. It portrays the life and death of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I and mother to the doomed Crown Prince Rudolf (of Mayerling fame). It has been translated into seven languages and seen by over ten million spectators worldwide, making it the most successful German-language musical of all time.
And dig that blond aryan death-god tenor.
Pia Douwes and Stanley Burleson from the original cast, 1999.
My favorite favorite favorite European musical, adapted from Jacques Demy’s 1967 film starring the bright sisters of my moviegoing youth, Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac. French-Armenian singer/songwriter/actor/music producer Essaï Altounian produced this at the humongous, deep-staged Palais des Congres de Paris (near Porte Maillot). This is, by the way, the show where that lovely “Chanson de Maxence” comes from.
Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (2003, stage, en francais) is available in its entirety here.
Update: Merci mille fois to Jen Syka for posting the entire musical on YouTube on 25 November, 2018.