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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)

Opera Among the Vegetables. A day at Mercado Central in Valencia, Spain

November 20, 2009 – A day at Mercado Central in Valencia, Spain. People are milling around like normal. All of a sudden a tenor voice floats over the fruit stands. Music begins to play among the bananas and oranges. A guy looking just like the other vendors begins singing behind one of the stands. He walks out into a public section of the mall. People look astonished and incredulous at first.

The tenor is joined by a soprano in a matching apron. They begin to dance as they sing. The crowd thickens. They begin to catch on. Some of them laugh. All applaud at the end of the duet. Then another tenor jumps on a box and starts his aria. Finally end six singers – three female, three male – join together for the last aria. Verdi’s La Traviata (an opera sung in Italian but set in Paris).

People begin to sway to the music. A few look like they are singing along. One couple waltzes in the open area, and another lady is laughing so hard she is crying. At the end, a sign is waved above the heads of the crowd – ¿Ves como te gusta la opera?  (That’s Spanish, not Italian) Something along the line of See how you like the opera?

Have fun.