Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Transplant brought touch of class

Madeline Heineman Berger brought an infusion of culture to the Old Pueblo with the founding of the Temple of Music and Art, 300 S. Scott Ave.

Madeline Heineman Berger brought an infusion of culture to the Old Pueblo with the founding of the Temple of Music and Art, 300 S. Scott Ave.

In the first decade of the 1900s, Madeline Dreyfus Heineman found the Old Pueblo a bit too rough around the edges for her taste and decided to do something about that.

What was needed, she felt, was an infusion of culture – a hearty dose of gentility and class, performances with more substance than those provided by the local philharmonic orchestra, brass band concerts, evening serenades or the late-evening caterwauling of rowdies at the local “watering holes.”

In 1906, she joined a local women’s group, the Sorosis Club, and convinced friends she met there to join her in forming the Saturday Morning Music Club.

The dozen women who formed the core of the music club held gatherings in their homes, performing themselves and inviting other local musicians and singers to take part in recitals. Soon the club’s membership had quadrupled.

Madeline Dreyfus, born in 1875, was the daughter of German immigrants who operated a bakery and brewery in Nevada City, Calif. After her father died, her mother moved the family to Los Angeles.

There, Madeline received instruction in piano and voice, developing a thorough appreciation for the “better” music. In later years, she taught both disciplines to Tucson youngsters.

In Los Angeles, she met and married Simon Heineman, who had worked with the Zeckendorf brothers’ thriving mercantile business in Tucson before establishing his own liquor and cigar distributorship here. Leaving the refinements of Los Angeles behind, the new bride found Tucson a culture shock.

On Jan. 26, 1910, the music club arranged a concert performance by madam Frieda Langendorff, a “world-famous singer,” at the Tucson Opera House. The sponsors included some of the city’s most prominent women – wives of merchants, professors, lawyers and businessmen.

The Tucson Citizen described the performance as “probably the forerunner of very high-class music in Tucson.” The concert’s success and a growing audience hungry for quality entertainment fueled the club’s desire for a permanent facility.

Heineman’s campaign was set back by the death of her husband in 1924. However, she was buoyed by her many influential friends – including Tucson investment broker Harry Berger, who, four years later, became her second husband.

Harry Berger’s brother, Alexander, a wealthy Virginian who played the cello and grew peonies, “wintered” on a ranch at Vail and became interested in her project. In 1926, he offered to put up $100,000 for a “home” for the music club, providing it could raise another $50,000 from local sponsors.

That was followed by the offer of a substantial loan from the Juilliard Foundation, and the Temple of Music and Art was on its way to becoming a reality. When ground was broken the following year, Heineman’s friend, singer Amelita Galli-Curci of the Metropolitan Opera, was on hand to turn the first spade of earth.

The completed Temple featured an auditorium seating 1,000, a stage large enough for a symphony, a salon where paintings were displayed, scenery and dressing rooms, recital and practice rooms, and a tearoom.

Following the grand opening Oct. 21, 1927, a succession of world-class entertainers performed there – contralto Ernestine Schumann-Heink, composer-pianist-conductor Sergei Rachmaninoff, ballerina Anna Pavlova, pianist Ignacy Paderewski, violinist Jascha Heifetz, actress Tallulah Bankhead, singer Nelson Eddy and many others.

Because there was no air conditioning, the Temple was closed in the summer.

Club membership reached nearly 700 by 1929, but the Temple’s early success was short-lived. The Great Depression settled upon the country, and money for entertainment dried up. The Temple lost its tax-exempt status in 1928.

To make ends meet, the club leased the building for use as a Spanish-language moviehouse, and finally, in desperation, offered it to the city, along with a sizeable mortgage. The city passed on the offer.

Madeline Berger stepped down as president in 1940, and when she died in 1943, in La Jolla, Calif., a memorial service for her was held at the Temple.

Belatedly, the city now is owner of the Temple of Music and Art. It leases the facility to Arizona Theatre Company.

Paul L. Allen may be reached at 573-4588 or pallen@tucsoncitzen.com. For more history coverage, go to www.tucsoncitizen.com/history.

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

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For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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