Notre Dame de Namur University Present “Emperor Norton” and “Starbird,” June 3

Belmont, CA, May 24, 2007 — Two fantasy operas complete a double bill as Notre Dame de Namur University faculty member and nationally renowned composer, Henry Mollicone brings “Emperor Norton” and “Starbird” to the NDNU Theatre, June 3 at 7:30 p.m.

The two one-act operas composed by Mollicone will be presented in a joint production by Donald Pippin’s Pocket Opera and NDNU’s Young Artist Apprentice Project, a program under the umbrella of NDNU’s Department of Music and Vocal Arts. In cooperation with Pocket Opera, young artists sing roles in operas; perform alongside professionals, faculty, and sometimes their own instructors, in both University and professional settings.

The performance will also mark the first time in Pocket Opera’s 30 year history that any operas other than founder Donald Pippin’s have been presented by the company. Mollicone will conduct from the piano while leading the Pocket Philharmonic in soaring, fun, jazzy music. NDNU faculty member Greg Fritsch will direct.

“It is always an incredible experience to be able to work with the composer on his own music,” said Debra Lambert, NDNU’s Chair of the Department of Music and Vocal Arts.  “As singers and actors, we always have to guess about what the composer or author was thinking when we’re working on a role. With “Emperor Norton” and “Starbird,” our composer/genius is sitting at the piano, giving us cues with his baton. What a gift!”

“Emperor Norton” tells the tale of the life of one of San Francisco’s great characters of the 19th century, Joshua Abraham Norton. He was originally a businessman who lost his fortune in a transaction involving Peruvian rice. After losing a lengthy lawsuit involving the business deal, Norton left San Francisco and apparently lost his mental faculties, returning to the city a few years later claiming to be the “Emperor” of the United States.

The citizens of San Francisco celebrated his eccentricities and he was treated like a true emperor. He received free meals in the city’s best restaurants, and theaters always reserved balcony seats for Norton. Some wonder whether he was mad, or just very shrewd. The play chronicles the “mad emperor” as he visits an audition for a play about his life, and provides the actors, and the playwright, with the true, very moving, story.

“Starbird” involves a contemporary telling of the children’s fairy tale “The Musicians of Bremen.” A dog, cat, and mule, disenchanted with their lives on earth, meet in New York’s Central Park, and are visited by the Starbird and blast off for the planet Arcturus. On the way they learn valuable lessons about friendship, faults, virtues, and happiness.

Mollicone has performed with the New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, San Francisco Opera, Kansas City Opera, and Central City Opera. His one act play “The Face on the Barroom Floor” is one of the most performed pieces in the current repertory. Other operas include “Coyote Tales,” “Gabriel’s Daughter,” and “Hotel Eden.”

The cast includes professional singers and NDNU faculty members Patricia Urbano, Lee Strawn, Eric Morris, and Debra Lambert; graduate students Timothy John Rhein, Justin Taylor Nixon and Kristopher Hauck, and guest artists Alison Collins and Michael P. Mendelsohn.

Tickets cost $20 general admission, $10 students and seniors. The NDNU Theatre is located on the University campus at 1500 Ralston Avenue in Belmont. For more information, contact the NDNU Box Office at (650) 508-3429 or “Emperor Norton” and “Starbird” will also be presented May 26 and June 9 at 2 p.m. at the Florence Gould Theater, Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. Tickets for these shows may be purchased through the Pocket Opera Box Office at (415) 972-8930 or