Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Draghi, Giovanni Battista

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DRAGHI, GIOVANNI BATTISTA (17th cent.), Italian musician, generally supposed to be a brother of Antonio Draghi of Ferrara (1635–1700), settled in London soon after the Restoration. The first notice of him occurs in 1666–7, when Pepys (Diary, ed. Bright, iv. 233–5) met him at Lord Brouncker's on 12 Feb., and records that he ‘hath composed a play in Italian for the opera, which T. Killigrew do intend to have up; and here he did sing one of the acts. He himself is the poet as well as the musician, which is very much, and did sing the whole from the words without any musicque prickt, and played all along upon a harpsicon most admirably, and the composition most excellent.’ There is no record of this opera having been performed. The statement in Miss Strickland's ‘Life of Catherine of Braganza’ [q. v.], that ‘the first Italian opera performed in this country was acted in her presence,’ probably arises from the fact that Shadwell's ‘Psyche,’ with vocal music by Matthew Lock (the queen's organist) and instrumental interludes by G. B. Draghi, which is sometimes considered the first English opera, was produced at the Dorset Garden Theatre in February 1673–4. This work, the scenery of which cost 600l., was only played for eight days. Lock's music was published in 1675, but Draghi's was omitted, by the composer's consent. On Lock's death Draghi succeeded him (in 1677) as organist to the queen; the salary attached to this post was 440l. for the master of the music and eight choristers (Strickland, ed. 1851, v. 603). Draghi is mentioned in Evelyn's ‘Diary.’ On 25 Sept. 1684 Evelyn ‘dined at Lord Falkland's … where after dinner we had rare music, there being amongst others … Signor John Baptist … famous … for playing on the harpsichord, few if any in Europe exceeding him.’ Evelyn met him again on 28 Feb. 1685 at Lord Arundell of Wardour's, ‘where after dinner … Mr. Pordage entertained us with his voice, that excellent and stupendous artist, Signor John Baptist, playing to it on the harpsichord.’ On 29 Oct. 1684 Draghi received a sum of 50l. bounty from the king's secret service money (Secret Services of Charles II, Camd. Soc. 1851, p. 93). In 1685 he wrote music to two songs in Tate's ‘Duke and No Duke;’ these were printed with the play as the work of ‘Signior Baptist.’ Two years later he set Dryden's ode on St. Cecilia's day, ‘From harmony,’ which was performed at Stationers' Hall and published in full score. Draghi is said to have been music-master to Queen Mary and Queen Anne. According to Hawkins he was in England in 1706, and wrote music to D'Urfey's ‘Wonders in the Sun,’ produced at the Haymarket on 5 April 1706. There are reasons for believing this to be a mistake. Catherine of Braganza returned to Portugal in 1692, and though Chamberlayne's ‘Notitia’ for 1694 still gives Draghi's name as that of her organist in 1694, in 1700 he states that many of the queen-dowager's court had gone over with her into Portugal, giving a list of the officials who remained behind, among whom Draghi's name does not occur. It is therefore probable that he followed her abroad, especially as no record of his death, will, or administration of his estate can be found. With regard to the ‘Wonders in the Sun,’ Hawkins may have been misled by the confusion which has arisen owing to the music of Lully being often described in England as by ‘Signor Baptist.’ The words of ‘Wonders in the Sun’ were printed in 1706, and the title-page states that the songs were ‘set to musick by several of the most eminent masters of the age.’ Many of these songs are printed in D'Urfey's ‘Pills to Purge Melancholy,’ but to none of them is any composer's name affixed except to a dialogue ‘to the famous Cebell of Signior Baptist Lully.’ Moreover an advertisement in the ‘Daily Courant’ for 8 April 1706 states that this dialogue, ‘made to the famous Sebel of Signior Baptist Lully,’ was to be added to the performance on that night. Hawkins (iv. 426–7) says that ‘Signor Baptist’ always means Draghi, and not Lully, as supposed; but there is a passage in Pepys in which the latter can only be intended. It is therefore not improbable that Hawkins had seen some account of ‘Wonders in the Sun’ in which Lully was called simply ‘Signor Baptist,’ whence he concluded that the music was the work of Draghi.

The several scattered manuscripts and printed songs of Draghi show that he completely adopted the English style of music during his residence in this country. An early cantata, ‘Qual spaventosa tromba’ (Harl. MS. 1272), shows that he originally wrote more in the style of Carissimi; there is also extant a manuscript overture of his dated 1669 (Addit. MS. 24889), which is very different from his songs printed in the ‘Pills to Purge Melancholy’ and other collections. His published ‘Six Select Suites of Lessons for the Harpsichord’ show that his reputation as a performer was well founded.

[Grove's Dict. of Music, i. 461; Catalogue of the Library of the Royal Coll. of Music; Genest's Hist. of the Stage, i. 163, ii. 350; Downes's Roscius Anglicanus, 45, 66; Daily Courant, April 1706; Evelyn's Diary, ed. 1850, ii.; authorities quoted above.]

W. B. S.