In 1909, the history of ballet was transformed with the first appearance in the West of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, with Nijinsky and Pavlova at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris. Prominent among the French backers for this first, historic season and for later years, was Henri de Rothschild (1872-1947). In post-war New York, Bethsabée de Rothschild (1914-1999), was drawn into the world of contemporary dance through the dynamic American choreographer, Martha Graham, of whom she became an enthusiastic supporter. In 1949, she published in Paris a study of the subject, La danse artistique aux U.S.A. Tendances modernes. In 1964 in Tel Aviv, where she settled, (adopting the Hebrew name Batsheva), she founded her own dance company, the Batsheva Dance Company, followed, in 1967, by a school of classical and modern dance. Joining forces with the distinguished dancer Jeannette Ordman as artistic director, her dance company, renamed the Bat-Dor, has gone on to win many international plaudits.
In 1932, Philippe de Rothschild (1902-1988) co-directed Le Lac aux Dames, a Tyrolean romance, one of the first talking pictures produced in France. Philippe's niece, Nicole (1924-2007) under her stage-name Nicole Stephane, appeared in Jean Cocteau's Les enfants terribles and later turned from acting to production on a number of films, including Mourir a Madrid and La vie de chateau. Before her marriage, Nadine L'hopitalier (b.1932), Baroness Edmond, appeared as an extra in The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Anthony Quinn and Gina Lollobrigida, and later acted, under the stage name, Nadine Tallier in some 40 films, including several English productions. Jeanne, Baroness Eugène von Rothschild (1908-2003) was a stage and film actress, professionally known as Jeanne Stuart, making her motion picture debut in 1931 and went on to perform and star in more than twenty films.
Writers and poets have, from the early days of Rothschild success, been drawn into their circle. In Paris, Heinrich Heine, Balzac and Georges Sand were regular visitors to the Paris house of James de Rothschild (1792-1868). In England, Disraeli's novels carry many almost transparent references to the Rothschilds and in the household of Louise de Rothschild (1821-1910), at Aston Clinton, Dickens, Matthew Arnold and Thackeray were frequent visitors.
Many members of the family wrote novels, plays, poetry and published other works. One of the most successful literary members of the family was Philippe de Rothschild (1902-1988), no doubt inheriting the enthusiasm from his father, Henri (1872-1947), who left behind not only plays, but an unpublished detective story and a film script. Philippe's many works include translations of Elizabethan plays and poetry and of the English playwright, Christopher Fry, as well as his own short stories and poems. In more recent times, Nadine, Baroness Edmond de Rothschild has published, among her other works of autobiography and her books on social etiquette, omantic novels. For a list of works by the family, please see Rothschild Family: Bibliography »
The company of composers and performers has been a repeating feature of Rothschild family history. Chopin, Liszt, Paganini and Rossini (a close friend of Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1879) and his sisters) came often to the Paris salons of James' wife Baroness Betty de Rothschild (1805-1886). Some were lucky enough to be taught by masters: Chopin gave lessons to Betty, her daughter Charlotte (1825-1899) and her niece Hannah Mathilde (1832-1924), Rossini to Louise (1820-1894), daughter of Nathan Rothschild (1777-1836), and Mendelssohn to her sister Hannah (1815-1864), who also learnt the harp from the great master, Parish Alvers. With such inspiration, it is little wonder that some ventured themselves to compose. Charlotte, Betty's daughter, published some piano pieces in the style of Chopin. Most prolific by far was Hannah Mathilde who, in the 1850s and 1860s, composed a series of piano pieces and lieder based on words by Victor Hugo, Alfred de Musset, Goethe and others - many at the request of singers of the calibre of Adelina Patti.
At Halton and in London, Alfred de Rothschild (1842-1918) numbered Arthur Sullivan, Adelina Patti and Nellie Melba among his many musical friends and produced Liszt and Rubinstein for his London parties. In post-War France, Francis Poulenc, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and Georges Auric were among the wide circle of musical friends of Robert (1880-1946) and Nelly de Rothschild (1886-1945).
Marriage has brought a number of further musical connections. Marie Louise (1892-1975) and Nellie Beer (1886-1945) both married Rothschilds and were both great-nieces of the composer Giacomo Meyerbeer. Jacqueline de Rothschild (1911-2012) married the celebrated cellist, Gregor Piatigorsky. Louise's marriage produced a son, Alberto Franchetti, who went on to become a musician and composer. His operas included Asrael and Cristoforo Colombo.
Among recent generations, music has been both a love and a serious interest of Germaine de Rothschild (1884-1975), who, urged on by her son-in-law, the distinguished cellist, Gregor Piatigorsky, published a biography of Boccherini in 1962. The late Leopold de Rothschild (1927-2012), was a keen singer with the Bach Choir and its Chairman from 1976, playing a substantial role in the musical world, as, among other roles, Chairman of the Council of the Royal College of Music and of the English Chamber Orchestra and a Trustee of Glyndebourne. His niece, Charlotte, (b.1955) has become the family's first professional singer. Fittingly, her recitals often feature the songs of Hannah Mathilde. Charlotte has published on the Rothschilds' musical connections and has researched in detail the family's Livre d'Or.
The enthusiasm for amateur photography which swept Europe in the late 19th century touched more than one member of the Rothschild family, but none more so than Julie (1830-1907) in Paris who, in 1894, took the new art seriously enough to build a studio and darkroom onto her house at 47 rue de Monceau. Nathaniel Mayer von Rothschild (1836-1905), on his journey through southern Europe, the Levant and North Africa at the turn of the century travelled with a heavy, large-plate camera and published a number of his fine landscape and genre studies in 1901 as Reise Erinnerungen.
In the years leading up to the First World War, Lionel de Rothschild (1882-1942) developed a keen interest in photography, particularly the autochrome, a early form of colour photography. Portraits, still lives and landscapes- particularly of the gardens at Gunnersbury and Ascott - all survive. Comprising photograph albums, loose prints, and glass plates the images show countries he visited while on holiday, such as Denmark, Egypt, Italy, Netherlands, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia. The subjects of his photography include his yacht the Rhodora, views of gardens showing plants and flowers, views of towns and buildings, landscapes, bird nests, a bull fight, portraits of family and friends, and scenes that inspired Lionel. The camera equipment he used has survived and includes three cameras made by Newman Guardia Ltd with their respective holders and cases. Read more about The Rothschild autochromes here »
The social circle of Alfred de Rothschild (1842-1918) included many friends from the world of music and theatre. His enthusiasm was matched by practical commitment. He helped to finance Sir Henry Irving at the Lyceum and was principal shareholder in his friend George Edwardes' Gaiety and Empire Theatres. In France, the many-talented Henri de Rothschild (1872-1947) also turned to the theatre. In his 30s, under the name André Pascal, he began to write for the stage. His first one-acter ran for three months in Paris in 1906. A full-length comedy opened three years later and toured abroad. In all 37 of his plays were produced. In the 1920s, Henri, like Alfred made a practical commitment to the stage, building the Theatre Pigalle in a state-of-the-art chrome and neon style in 1929. The late Sir Evelyn de Rothschild (1931-2022) was a Trustee and supporter of the Shakespeare's Globe Trust.