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Emperor Norton I and Henry Mollicone

A friend of mine posted an article today about Emperor Norton I, a San Francisco businessman (Joshua A. Norton, 1819-1880), who declared himself Emperor of the United States. A once wealthy man, Norton became a pauper. In his poverty he won San Francisco and a lasting fame more than he never had as a rich man. See her blog at http://nancycurteman.wordpress.com or click on Global Mysteries in the right-hand column under Fellow Bloggers.

Nancy’s blog reminded me of a friend and composer, Henry Mollicone. He wrote a one-act opera in 1981, I believe, where the mad “Emperor” appears at auditions for a new play about his life, and gives everyone the real story.

Photograph by Felipe Buitrago
Celebrated Composer: The San Jose Chamber Orchestra’s ‘Mostly Mollicone’ performance on April 9 [2006] is one of several area events honoring the composer’s  birthday.
From the article at


Other similar musical feats include A Face on the Barroom Floor, his one-act opera for flute, cello; Coyote Tales: A Tone Poem, which is based on an earlier opera (Mollicone and librettist Sheldon Harnick) adapted tales from the Crow, Hopi, Karok, Klamath and Okanago tribes.
His Beatitude Mass, which I have yet to hear in person (Yes, kick me now please.) came from a conversation with a San Jose priest. Henry said that they were talking about ways to use the arts to raise money for the homeless and Henry decided to write a piece of music based upon interviews with homeless people.
Henry says he will stop composing when he’s dead, so hopefully there will be many more wonderful compositions. May he live to be 100, (at least)