Betsaal, seit frühchristl. Zeit Name für ein kleineres Gotteshaus; Klosterkirche bei den Zisterziensern; kleine Kapelle für Privatandachten seit Ende des 12. Jh. Als O. wurde auch die Orgelbühne bezeichnet.
ETYM Italian, from Latin oratorius belonging to praying. Related to Orator, Oratory.
1. A more or less dramatic text or poem, founded on some religious narrative, elaborately set to music, in recitative, arias, grand choruses, etc., to be sung with an orchestral accompaniment, but without action, scenery, or costume.
2. Performance or rendering of such a composition.
Dramatic, non-scenic musical setting of religious texts, scored for orchestra, chorus, and solo voices. Its origins lie in the Laude spirituali performed by St Philip Neri’s Oratory in Rome in the 16th century, followed by the first definitive oratorio in the 17th century by Cavalieri. The form reached perfection in such works as J S Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, and Handel’s Messiah.
The term is sometimes applied to secular music drama in which there is little or no stage action, as in Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex 1926–27 and Messiaen’s St François d’Assise 1975–83. In the earliest oratorios there was often an element of ritual and spatial dramatization, and Bach himself introduced audience participation with the chorales of his St Matthew Passion. In 1993 Jonathan Miller reintroduced simple actions to a London performance of Bach’s St John Passion with telling effect.