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A Musical in 2 Acts, a Prologue and 18 Scenes. Music by Jerry Bock, Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, Book by Sherman Yellen
Based on the book by Frederic Morton

Lunt Fontanne, Broadway - 19 October 1970 / 2nd January, 1972 (505 perfs)

The book of this show follows the fortunes of the international banking family, the Rothschild, from its humble German beginnings to the powerful influence it exerted in the Congress of Vienna.. It also concerns the struggle of the European Jews to live in an oppressive world.

The Story

Act I

It is 1772, and while Prince William of Hesse is entertaining his aristocratic friends, the Frankfurt Jews in their ghetto are restricted in their movements and are victims of violence and oppression. Mayer Rothschild returns home after a year's banking apprenticeship in Hanover. He tells his fiancée, Gutele, that he has decided not to take up a position and permanent residence in Hanover but rather, to remain in Frankfurt and try to prosper there. Gutele wants to marry Mayer right away and start a family but there is a strict quota on the numbers of Jews who are allowed to marry and only twelve Jewish weddings a year are permitted. Mayer thinks he might have a way of getting round this quota system and promises Gutele there has to be more to life than the ghetto and one room living.

Mayer opens his shop which handles goods and rare coins but it is at the Frankfurt Fair that he attracts the attention of Prince William of Hesse with the way he ingeniously sells rare coins. Mayer bribes Prince William with a coin of his choice in exchange for permission to marry Gutele. Mayer soon becomes agent for the court bankers but his ambition is not assuaged. He wants more. By 1778 he and Gutele have have five children, all boys.

The boys - Amshel, Solomon, Nathan, Jacob and Kalman - work in their father's shop and all prove to be adept salesmen. The ghetto, however, still remains a place of oppression and regular purges and the sons, now young men, are no longer content to wait for the better life that seems to be forever just out of reach.

It is 1804 and Prince William lends money to his cousin, King Christian of Denmark, in order to help fight a war. Mayer offers his sons to the prince as agents to negotiate the loan. The Rothschild luck finally wins over the dubious Prince. The boys are nominated court agents and leave for Denmark.

Mayer and his sons undertake their business in Copenhagen but at home, Hesse falls to the forces of Napoleon and the administration of Napoleon's Minister of Police, Joseph Fouché. When the Rothschild men return home they find that Prince William has fled and that there is no court for which they can act as agents. Mayer, however, sends his sons throughout Europe to call in the debts of Prince William before the French can appropriate the funds. Nathan will go to England where he will invest the money collected by the other brothers. Gutele sees this as the break-up of her family but she stands by Mayer's decision as the boys leave home to fulfil their duty.

Act II

1805 and London's Stock Exchange hopes that England can withstand the imminent French invasion. The spirit of free enterprise still reigns supreme, however, and Nathan soon becomes extremely successful. It is whilst in London, that Nathan meets the aristocratic Hannah Cohen, a lady devoted to charitable causes. He falls head over heels in love with her despite the fact that she offers little by way of encouragement.

Nathan is reject by Hannah for his lack of ideals. Nathan says that if Hannah will marry him he will lend England the money it needs to end the war. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Herries arrives, Nathan offers different conditions for the loan: he will provide the money if Herries will see to it that German and Austria lift their restrictions on Jews. When Hannah realises that the loan does not depend upon her acceptance of Nathan's proposal, but on his insistence on civil rights for his people, she is won over.

Back at the Rothschild home, Mayer, satisfied that Prince Metternich will honour his pledge to lift restrictions on the Jews after receiving the loan. He now truly believes that he will live to see the ghetto walls come down.

It is 1818, the war has ended and a peace treaty will be signed at Aix-la-Chappelle. In the presence of Mayer and his sons, Prince Metternich however, decides not to keep to his half of the bargain - the Jews will not, after all, receive their declaration of civil rights after all.

Back home, Mayer, now ailing, makes a will leaving one brother to another and their mother to all of her sons. After the death of Mayer, the sons hatch a scheme to get what had been promised. They decide to risk everything by selling bonds at a lower price that those of Metternich's peace bonds, thus forcing Metternich to come to terms with his side of the original bargain.

Metternich comes to Frankfurt and has no choice but to concede. He agrees to sign the declaration of rights but the sons now want more. Metternich has to agree that all State bonds shall be handled by the House of Rothschild and that the brothers shall each be made a baron. Mayer Rothschild's greatest dream has come to fruition - the walls of the ghetto have been torn down.

Musical Numbers:

  1. Prologue
  2. Pleasure and Privilege - Prince William, Ensemble
  3. One Room - Mayer Rothschild, Gutele (Mama) Rothschild
  4. He Tossed a Coin - Mayer, Vendors, Ensemble
  5. Sons - Mayer, Gutele (Mama) Rothschild, Young Amshel, Young Solomon, Young Nathan, Young Jacob
  6. Everything - Nathan Rothschild, Gutele (Mama) Rothschild, Solomon Rothschild, Kalman Rothschild, Amshel Rothschild, Jacob Rothschild
  7. Rothschild and Sons - Mayer, Nathan, Solomon, Kalman, Amshel, Jacob
  8. Allons - Prince William, Male Ensemble
  9. Rothschild and Sons (reprise) - Mayer, Nathan, Solomon, Kalman, Amshel, Jacob
  10. Sons (reprise) - Gutele, Mayer
  11. Hymn: Give England Strength - Prince William, Male Ensemble
  12. This Amazing London Town - Nathan
  13. They Say - General, Male Ensemble
  14. I'm in Love! I'm in Love! - Nathan
  15. I'm in Love! I'm in Love! (reprise) - Hannah Cohen
  16. In My Own Lifetime - Mayer
  17. Have You Ever Seen a Prettier Little Congress? - Prince William
  18. Stability - Prince William, Ensemble
  19. Bonds - Nathan, Solomon, Kalman, Amshel, Jacob, Prince William, Ensemble
  20. (The Will—Finale) - Mayer

Scenes and Settings:

The action takes place throughout Europe between 1772 and 1818.

Prologue: Hesse, 1772.

Act 1

Act 2


(in order of appearance)

Members of the Hessian Court, People of the Frankfort Ghetto, Members of the Austrian Court, Grenadiers, Couriers, Crowned Heads of Europe, Banker-Brokers