A sacred drama set to music, whose appearance at the turn of the 17th century coincides with the invention of opera and whose aesthetics and conventions closely parallel that genre. At first heard in prayer halls of certain Roman churches (oratories), oratorios soon joined the opera in aristocratic salons, theaters, and concert halls but utilized no staging or scenery. Instrumental accompaniment ranges from continuo alone to large orchestral forces. A chorus for both commentary and character portrayal (e.g., the people of Israel), is typical, particularly of oratorios after 1700, perhaps the most distinctive element of the genre. Vocal soloists sing individual character roles. The plots are most often adaptations of Bible stories, particularly Old Testament stories and hagiographies, with librettos of moral or allegorical character a distinct minority.
   The name derives from the Congregazione dell’Oratorio, a religious order founded by St. Philip Neri (1515–1595) dedicated to renewal of contemplative prayer for the laity, whose oratory services were animated by laude and other sacred music. In 1600, the oratory at the Chiesa Nuova in Rome saw the first performance of Emilio Cavalieri’s (c. 1550–1602) Rappresentazione di Anima et di Corpo, a dialogue between the Spirit and the Body set to recitative, with intermittent choruses. The same kind of work is Pietro Della Valle’s (1586–1652) Oratorio della Purificazione of 1640, the first instance of the term applied to a piece of music. In the first half of the 17th century, however, traditional contrapuntal music (stile antico) continued to set oratorios along with the newer recitative texture. In the second half, the music resembled opera and cantata closely, with recitative and aria alternation as the basic scheme. Texts were in Italian (oratorio volgare) or Latin (oratorio latino). Italian poetry was typically 350–400 lines and required from one and one-half to two hours to perform. Latin librettos were usually prose, often excerpted from the Vulgate Bible, and a narrator (testo) often took the role of evangelist. Giacomo Carissimi wrote 13 influential Latin works that included a significant choral role, but choruses are rare in the 20 or so extant oratorios of his much younger colleague Alessandro Scarlatti, replaced by an occasional coro, an ensemble of the vocal soloists.
   In France, however, Carissimi’s student, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, composer of 35 oratorios, sometimes called histoires sacrées, in French and Latin, expanded the number of choruses and employed them as commentators and dramatic agents.
   In German-speaking lands, sacred dramas or historiae were usually liturgical with strictly Biblical librettos (e.g., Christmas Oratorio of Heinrich Schü tz) and often provoked controversy when performed in theaters. In England, George Frideric Handel managed to overcome such objections with his English oratorio. Handel’s personal amalgam of Italian operatic conventions, the English language, and the English cathedral choir tradition, and his international reputation, particularly throughMessiah, provided the model for oratorio composition that remained more or less consistent through an age of expanding orchestras and choruses and changing musical languages until the present.
   Some of the more frequently performed oratorios after Handel are:
   Franz Joseph Haydn, Die Schöpfung ("The Creation," 1798)
   Haydn, Die Jahreszeiten ("The Seasons," 1801)
   Felix Mendelssohn, Paulus ("St. Paul," 1836)
   Mendelssohn, Elias ("Elijah," 1846)
   Hector Berlioz, L’Enfance du Christ ("The Childhood of Christ," 1854)
   Camille Saint-Saëns, Oratorio de Noël (1858)
   Franz Liszt, Christus (1862–67)
   Antonín Dvořák, St. Ludmilla (1886)
   Edward Elgar, The Dream of Gerontius (1900)
   Claude Debussy, Le Martyre de St. Sébastien ("The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, 1911)
   Arthur Honegger, Le Roi David ("King David," 1921)
   Ralph Vaughn Williams, Sancta Civitas ("The Holy City," 1923–1925)
   William Walton, Belshazzar’s Feast (1931)
   Michael Tippett, A Child of Our Time (1941)
   Krzysztof Penderecki, Paradise Lost (1971)
   John Tavener, Lamentations and Praises (2001)
   See also Passion.

Historical dictionary of sacred music. . 2006.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • ORATORIO — Une des définitions les plus précises de l’oratorio est fournie par Sébastien de Brossard dans son Dictionnaire de musique (1703): «C’est une espèce d’opéra spirituel, ou un tissu de dialogues, de récits, de duos, de trios, de ritournelles, de… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Oratorio — • A musical composition for solo voices, chorus, orchestra, and organ, to a religious text generally taken from Holy Scripture. Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Oratorio     Oratorio …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Oratorio — puede referirse a: Los Oratorios, lugares dedicados al culto. Los Oratorios, piezas de música clásica con trama generalmente religiosa. Los Oratorios Salesianos, son centros juveniles salesianos. La localidad de Oratorio, en el departamento de… …   Wikipedia Español

  • oratorio — oratorio, ria adjetivo 1. Área: retórica De la oratoria o del orador: arte oratorio, tono oratorio, estilo oratorio. sustantivo masculino 1. Área: religión Parte de una casa o de un edificio público destinada a la oración, donde …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • oratorio (1) — {{hw}}{{oratorio (1)}{{/hw}}agg. 1 Dell oratore, dell eloquenza: arte oratoria. 2 (est.) Retorico, ampolloso: stile –o. oratorio (2) {{hw}}{{oratorio (2)}{{/hw}}s. m. 1 Edificio o piccolo edificio, spesso annesso a chiese o a conventi, per le… …   Enciclopedia di italiano

  • Oratorio — Or a*to ri*o, n. [It., fr. L. oratorius belonging to praying. See {Orator}, and cf. {Oratory}.] [1913 Webster] 1. (Mus.) A more or less dramatic text or poem, founded on some Scripture nerrative, or great divine event, elaborately set to music,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • oratorio — (n.) long musical composition, usually with a text based on Scripture, 1727 (in English from 1640s in native form oratory), from It. oratorio (late 16c.), from Church L. oratorium (see ORATORY (Cf. oratory) (n.2)), in reference to musical… …   Etymology dictionary

  • oratório — adj. 1. Relativo à oratória. 2. Próprio de orador. • s. m. 3. Móvel em forma de armário para imagens devotas. 4. Capela doméstica. 5. Lugar de oração. 6. Lugar onde os condenados à morte passam o seu último dia de vida. 7. Drama sacro lírico …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • oratorio — has the plural form oratorios …   Modern English usage

  • oratorio — ► NOUN (pl. oratorios) ▪ a large scale musical work on a religious theme for orchestra and voices. ORIGIN Italian, from the musical services held in the church of the Oratory of St Philip Neri in Rome …   English terms dictionary

  • oratorio — [ôr΄ə tôr′ē ō΄, är΄ə tôr′ē ō΄] n. pl. oratorios [It, lit., small chapel (< LL(Ec) oratorium: see ORATORY, sense 2): from the performance of such compositions at the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri in Rome] a long, dramatic musical composition,… …   English World dictionary

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