Il Zoofiliaco

The Zoophile

A recently discovered opera by G.F. Handel.



Umberto Umberto, a middle-aged curate and pigeon-fancier (counter-tenor), is relaxing in his bird-watching hut deep in the Norfolk Broads. He expresses his deep contentment in the aria L’amore degli uccelli, and before long, is joined by a passing emu (Heldentenor) who shares an intimate moment of serenity with him. The silence is shattered by the sudden arrival of Umberto’s common-law wife, Papapapapagena (coloratura soprano), who, in her anger at not being invited, chastises her husband (A questo emu). The emu scuttles off into the undergrowth, and Papapapapapagena obtains a promise from Umberto that he will return home within the hour. Umberto, desolate, moans the famous lament Largi di Norfolk, consolatione di me.


Scene: Umberto and Papapagena’s rude cottage. Papapapagegena is discovered pacing up and down the kitchen, obsessively checking her emails whilst awaiting Umberto’s return. Over an unusually discordant ground bass, she sings the pointillistic Mio caro iPhone. Before long – mercifully – there is a knock at the door, and an officer of the peace (basso profundo) enters. Having confirmed Papagenana’s identity (Bist du Papagena, ja?), and listened to her unnecessarily long reply (Ich bins Papapagenana, mais c’est la même chose, pretty much), which features the ground-breaking use of an A, B and C section, with a radical da capo of the B section sung backwards whilst the A section is played forwards by an offstage band of hollowed-out butternut squashes, the policeman informs her that Umberto has been found violating an ocelot in the nearby village of Village. Curtain.


Scene: Village, a nearby village. A group of primitive and genetically deficient villagers sing the arousing chorus Incesto, prima gioia nostri. The policeman and Papagebanana enter downstage left, pursued by a group of ragazzi chanting the traditional Norfolk ditty Vendiamo il Issue Grande. In an oddly structured accompagnato – in between every line, a ukelele strums a verse of O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde gross – the whereabouts of both Umberto and ocelot are ascertained; Papagebanani and the policeman, increasingly priapic by the second, exit downstage left.




Meanwhile, in Rome, a group of cardinals are discussing the growing problem of zoophilia among priests (Meliora est fondlare pueri). News reaches them of Umberto’s transgression, and a special deputation is immediately formed.




Scene: Village. Umberto and his seductive ocelot are in the stocks. Most of the villagers are assembled; the others are occupied in the fields, or in their cousins. Those who have eyes and opposable thumbs are preparing stacks of rotten vegetables (Come il bar di salad al Pizza Hut), while the less able amongst them grunt the menacing chorale Preferons notre soeur. Pabanagepaganena and the policeman enter just in time to join in. As they prepare to wreak vegetal punishment on the faces of the inflagrant lovers, a trumpet (ossia butternut squash) is sounded offstage, and the Papal Nuncio (dramatic soprano) enters. He announces the forthcoming visit of His Holiness in the violently atonal concertante aria Il Papa sulli vacanci est and then stresses the importance of proper non-fruit-based justice. The villagers, baffled by his finely-tuned rhetoric, begin to pelt the Nuncio with decomposing cucumbers, and, in the ensuing chaos, Umberto and the ocelot escape.


Scene: A leafy bower. The emu, having spent the intervening three acts and intermezzo in a nearby pub, is eating macaroni cheese whilst mulling over the best course of action to win back the heart of Umberto (Caro Umberto, oggeto d’amore d’emu). Just as the F section is going through its fourth, highly-ornamented, repetition, Umberto Umberto and the ocelot come crashing through the foliage, clawing at each others’ clothes in an attempt to quash the flames of their passion. As they claw, they breathlessly attempt the macaronic duet Nostr’ amore verboten ist. The emu, realising the futility of his attempts to keep Umberto, orders another bowl of pasta and watches in awe as the villagers, Papagebanoffipiena, the policeman and the Papal Nuncio enter in quick succession, fall dumbstruck by the sheer beauty of the ocelot’s devotion to Umberto Umberto, and join in singing the chorus (arranged fugally to coincide with their entries, but with the third entry taken by the now inevitable butternut squash) C’est bizarre, mais tres jolie pour lui.

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© 2016 Peter Foggitt