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Development & Origin of Oratorio


A large scale, dramatic, musical composition for orchestra, chorus, and soloists, with a text portraying a biblical or sacred theme, presented without sets, scenery, or costumes. Often includes a narrator (historicus), soloists portray specific characters, recitative not delivered rapidly - importance of text. Chorus plays large role in the drama.

The Development of Oratorio in the simplest way explained...

The term Oratorio comes from the word "Oratory" which is a small chapel used for prayer and worship. In response to the Council of Trent's (1545 - 1563) decree for the church to infuse music into spiritual meetings, prayer, and discussions, Filippo Neri (1515-1595) incorporated lauda into his small, informal meetings which was held in an Oratory at Girolamo della Carita. Neri's meetings grew in popularity and number. Because of this Pope Gregory XIII recognized them as a religious order, Congregazione dell'Oratorio, and gave them a church to call their own, today known as Chiesa Nuova --------->


Cavalieri's Reppresentazione di anima e di corpo is important to the development of Oratorio because solo portions are set to the new monodic style, but because it used costumes, scenery, etc. it is considered to be the first moral opera. Although no music survives, the first oratorio is considered to be Pietro della Valle Oratorio della Purificatione (1640) written for the oratory of Chiesa Nuova ( which we know about because of a letter he wrote). There are two types of Oratorio: Latino (in latin) and Volgare (in Italian).

1650 - 1720

Oratorio had been firmly established as a genre in Rome and other Italian cities. They were still being performed for devotional reasons, but later in the century they were performed in the palaces as entertainment during the Lenten season, when opera theaters were closed.

Devotional Oratorios were mainly performed in these churches:

- Girolamo della Carita

- Chiesa Nuova

- Crocifisso

and became the dominant function of the church. Although mainly entertainment, they held a practice of preaching a sermon between the oratorio sections.

Significant Oratorio composers of this time:

Carissimi (1605 -1674) 4 oratorios

Scarlatti (1660 - 1725) 30 oratorios

Handel (1685 - 1759) 27 oratorios

Vivaldi (1678-1741) 4 oratorios

Caldara (1671 - 1736) 44 oratorios

By 1720 the oratorio had changed its function from being completely devotional to becoming a source of entertainment to be enjoy like an Opera, but without the staging or action.


Name one Oratorio and its composer between the following dates:





1950 - 2000

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