Author: Zea Frana
Within the Europeana Sounds project, the Austrian National Library is providing access to music autographs from two “sub-collections” of our music department: the Safe Collection and the Bedroom Library (“bibliotheca cubicularisʺ) of Leopold I. The composer we would like to introduce to you today, Antonio Draghi, is one of the most featured composers in the latter collection.
Antonio Draghi wrote around 170 dramatic secular and 40 dramatic sacred works throughout a period of 30 years. He is said to have written around 6 operas per year on average – with a creative peak of 11 operas in 1685 alone.
Antonio Draghi was born around 1634 in Rimini, Italy, and died 1700 in Vienna. His exact birth date is not known, but can be reconstructed from his death certificate, which states that he died at the age of 65. Information about Draghi’s youth is scarce. The earliest valid information we possess directs us to the basilica of St. Antonio in Padua, where he started out as a soprano in 1645. He stayed there almost continually until 1651, when he left as a bass singer. Afterwards he worked at the Accademia della Morte in Ferrara.
His career in Vienna started in 1658, when he joined the newly founded Kapelle (chapel) of the dowager empress Eleonora Gonzaga, the widow of Ferdinand III as a bass singer. The Kapellmeister (director of music of a chapel) during this time was Giuseppe Tricarico, who also came from Ferrara to Vienna. Draghi had to wait some 3 years, until 1661, before his creative output in Vienna started and it was also the year in which he got married to Livia Seliprandi. In the first compositions he worked on, however, he did not act as a composer, but as a librettist. That might be due to the circumstance, that during that time good musicians were always at hand at the Viennese court but poets were rather scarce. One of the first texts he wrote was “L’Almonte” in 1661 with music by Giuseppe Tricarico. In the preface of this and other operas Draghi stresses that he is first of all a musician and not a poet. He wrote libretti for several other composers like Antonio Bertali, the Hofkapellmeister (the director of music of the court chapel) during this time, or Pietro Andrea Ziani, who was the successor of Tricarico at Eleonora’s Kapelle.
The emperor Leopold I was also an accomplished composer (See also the blog post about Leopold I and his relation to music, which has been published earlier in the project.) with Draghi occasionally writing texts for him.
The first work, from which it can be said with certainty that the music was written by Antonio Draghi himself was “La mascharata per musica” in 1666. It was an opera for Carnival and was the first comical opera that was ever shown in Vienna.
In 1667 his work load started to increase due to the marriage of emperor Leopold I for which great festivities were being arranged. In the following year Antonio Draghi was made Vice-Kapellmeister of Eleonora’s Kapelle and finally replaced Pietro Andrea Ziani in 1669. It was also the year in which Draghi wrote “Il Perseo”, with a libretto by Aurelio Amalteo, which he is said to have finished in a couple of days. Amalteo apparently greatly admired the speed in which Draghi composed and that he was able to finish a work in such a short time, in which other composers might be able to merely do a few sketches.
Draghi stopped writing libretti in 1669, when Niccolo Minato was appointed court poet. Since their creative capability matched each other’s distinctly, a very productive cooperation began, lasting several decades. From around 1670 until 1698 they dominated the production of dramatic music at the Viennese court. Together they produced around 150 works (operas, sacred works and smaller dramatic works).
Although Draghi was Kapellmeister of Leonora’s Kapelle he also composed a lot of dramatic works for the emperor. Due to his great commitment in this area, and because the scope of duties concerning this matters was continually increasing, he was named “intendente delle musiche teatrali” (director of dramatic music) in 1673 and received more salary. He usually wrote operas and other works for birthdays and name days of the emperor, the empress or the dowager, as well as pieces for carnival. Usually the plots of the operas were about Greek or Roman history or mythology. Furthermore he also wrote sacred dramatic music: Oratorios for Lent, Sepolcri for Maundy Thursday or Rapprensentazioni sacre for Good Friday.
The third party which often joined Draghi and Minato in their creative endeavours, and with whom they formed a well-known trio during that time, was Ludovico Ottavio Burnacini. He was an architect and scene-painter and created opera houses and sceneries for operas (for example for Pomo D’oro ). One of the grandest pieces the three of them worked together on was probably “Il fuoco eterno custodito dalle Vestali”. It was originally composed for the celebration of the birth of Leopold’s first child with Claudia Felicitas, Maria Anna Sophie, and was performed on the day of her first public appearance in October in 1674. But in a wider sense the piece was allegorically connected with the marriage of Leopold with Claudia Felicitas one year earlier.
The performance was held in the “Theatre on the Cortina”, a very grand theatre constructed by Burnacini, which was inaugurated with a performance of “Il pomo D’oro” in 1668. Ludovico Burnacini created 12 sceneries for “Il fuoco eterno custodito dalle Vestali”. (Below you can see the curtain he created for the piece.)
The opera was newly adapted for the birth of Joseph I as “La Monarcha Latina trionfante” in 1678.
In the beginning of the year 1682 Antonio Draghi was appointed Hofkapellmeister, leaving the Kapelle of the dowager empress and continuing his duties at the Kapelle of the emperor. Due to his hard work and his many compositions Draghi earned a good living and owned several houses. Around 1687 he started suffering of gout, but coped with it for another 10 years, before it had a serious impact on his compositional work. He nevertheless maintained the post of Kapellmeister until his death in 1700.