Sacrati, Francesco ... Italian composer... was active in Venice as a composer of opera during the early 1640's ... was highly esteemed by his contemporaries. Prince Matthias de Medici called him "one of the best composers around" ... None of his works is known to survive.1 [Walker 1980: 16/377]
The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich houses a large manuscript collection of Baroque opera excerpts from the bequest of Adolf Sandberger, catalogued as "Opernfragmente, Mus. Mss, 5734."2 Preserved in three separate portfolios, the fragments contain Italian, German, French and English selections spanning the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries by a wide range of composers, from the famous to the barely known. There is a special Venetian folder in the second volume, entitled "Opernfragmente, Venetianische Schule," that contains the music of Boretti, Cavalli, Cesti, Ferrari, Freschi, Legrenzi, Pallavicino, Pollaroli, Sacrati, Sartorio, Varischino and Ziani. To find Sacrati's name among these composers is surprising since all references to him in music literature declare his works for the stage to be lost.
The title page, written on stave paper in Lathi script, reads:
"Mus. Mss. 5734 /VI. 24" "Copie aus der Hofbibliothek, Wien"3
Drama per musica
Poesia di Giulio Strozzi
Musica di Francesco Sacrati
Covering ten pages, the music includes a Sonata (a 5), Proserpina's lament and the subsequent recitative (Scene 1, Act I), and a duet between Proserpina and Plutone (Scene 2).
A letter, addressed to Sandberger, is appended to the score:
K.u.K. Hof-Bibliothek Wien, den 11. Oktober 1913.
I, Josefplatz Nr. 1.
Verehrtester Herr Professor!
An Stelle des Herrn Dr. Lach - der in Berlin war - habe ich beiliegende Kopie anfertigen lassen. An einer Stelle ist der Text unleserlich. Molitor hat in seiner Abschrift das Wort gleichfalls nur markiert. Den Noten beigebend ist ein kleiner Zettel, auf dem Molitor einen binweis auf Winterfelds Gabrieli, III Teil, pag 65. gibt und die Verwendung der Blasinstrumente zum Gesang bespricht. Die Kosten für Kopie und Post - 4 K. - bitte ich behufs Weiterleitung an meine Adresse senden zu wollen.
Dr. Hans Johann
("Vienna, October 11, 1913. Highly esteemed Professor [Sandberger]! In place of Dr. Lach, who was in Berlin, I have arranged the copying of the enclosed material. At one point the text is illegible. Molitor4 in his copy just wrote down the word in a similar manner. Appended to the score is a little piece of paper on which Molitor refers to Winterfeld's Gabrieli, part ffl, page 65, which concerns the use of wind instruments for vocal accompaniment. The costs relative to duplication and postage, 4 crowns, please mail to my address. With expressions of my admiration, Dr. Hans Johann, Vienna, Hofbibliothek, Music Division.")
In order to examine the source of the fragment, I requested a copy of the "original" score from the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna. The answer from Dr. Günter Brosche, director of the Musiksammlung in the ÖNB, was puzzling: "Unless more information is available" - he wrote "the Library is unable to help as there is no such work listed in their catalogue, neither under Sacrati's name nor in the title index." Yet the correspondence between Dr. Johann and Professor Sandberger mentions the score.
Recent sources consulted on early Venetian opera and of Sacrati's stature added further confusion to the problem. Few seventeenth-century publications were accorded more importance in the survey of Venetian musical life than Minerva al tavolino by Cristoforo Ivanovich (1681-1688). Its accumulated data has been quoted and referred to by scholars and musicians as the only reliable contemporary account of works, dates, composers and poets during the formative years of opera in Venice. …