It was a public holiday, you see; the twenty-first Tag der Deutschen Einheit, or Unification Day. Stores closed in Bavaria, but across the border in Austria, businesses opened as usual. We share most holidays with our Austrian cousins—especially the religious feasts—but Unification Day remains a strictly German affair. The last time Austrians celebrated German unity, it didn't work out so well.
Thus, we found ourselves in Salzburg watching the Austrians go about business-as-usual, and a lot of that business involves music. Two particular composers have enriched the city, both culturally and financially; the famous Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and a certain Richard Charles Rodgers. Mozart changed the face of baroque music with a prolific output of incomparable masterpieces. Rodgers composed The Sound of Music.
Let's be fair. Rodgers was a genius in his own field, and a prolific one. Like many geniuses, he loathed those who tampered with his vision. Rosemary Clooney earned scorn for a swing-style Falling in Love with Love, and Rodgers wanted to sue the Marcels over their doo-wop version of Blue Moon until Oscar Hammerstein reminded him of the royalties. Of Peggy Lee's Lover, he moaned "I don't know why [she] picked on me. She could have fucked up Silent Night."
What would Rodgers think if he visited Salzburg today? Specifically, if he sat in the Mirabell Gardens for a spell, listening to this tour guide sing.
The first word which might spring to his mind is royalty, and not because he's beside a palace. He was leading one of the many Sound of Music tour groups which cross the city. If you visit Salzburg, you can't miss them.
Many demand that a guide serenade his group, lending an air of authenticity to each movie location.
And this guy wasn't bad, either. A baritone, he put some real oomph into Edelweiss. And he sang it with an accent. Master Right identified this group as Korean.
I asked an Austrian colleague if felt uncomfortable that the Sound of Music so dominated the image of Austria in the eyes of the world. "No, Austrians love The Sound of Music," he replied. "When you think about it, we come off rather well, considering."