Mendelssohn’s Elijah oratorio Synopsis

"Elijah" is a celebrated oratorio composed by Felix Mendelssohn in 1846. This powerful and dramatic work tells the Biblical story of the prophet Elijah.
Image of Felix Mendelssohn on stamp

For the uninitiated Old Testament Bible scholars, the story of the prophet Elijah is broad and lengthy and warrants an overview to get a good grasp on the “Elijah” oratorio composed by Felix Mendelssohn in 1846. Following is a brief summary of this powerful and dramatic work, drawing inspiration from the First and Second Books of Kings in the Old Testament. Here is a synopsis of Mendelssohn’s oratorio, “Elijah”:

Act 1:

The oratorio opens with a chorus of the Israelites, who are suffering from a severe drought and famine. They lament their plight and pray for relief. Elijah, the great prophet, enters and declares that God will send rain to end the drought, but the people must first turn away from idol worship and return to the true God.

Act 2:

Elijah confronts the prophets of the false god Baal in a dramatic showdown on Mount Carmel. The prophets of Baal attempt to call down fire from their god, but they fail. In contrast, Elijah prays to the God of Israel, and fire descends from heaven, consuming his offering. This miraculous display leads the Israelites to repent and turn back to their true faith.

Act 3:

Jezebel, the wicked queen, is enraged by the defeat of the prophets of Baal and vows to kill Elijah. He flees into the wilderness, exhausted and disheartened. In a moment of despair, Elijah cries out to God, feeling abandoned and alone. An angel appears, providing him with sustenance and comfort.

Act 4:

Elijah continues his journey, guided by God. He eventually encounters a widow and her son who are starving. Through his faith and prayers, he miraculously multiplies their meager food supply. This act of compassion and God’s provision strengthen Elijah’s resolve.

Act 5:

The oratorio concludes with a majestic chorus, as a chariot of fire descends from heaven to carry Elijah to heaven in a whirlwind, signifying his ascent to God. The people mourn the loss of their beloved prophet but are left with a message of hope and faith.

Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” is a masterpiece of oratorio literature, known for its vivid storytelling, dramatic choral writing, and expressive solo arias. It explores themes of faith, redemption, and the power of divine intervention while showcasing Mendelssohn’s exceptional compositional skills and emotional depth.

Share:

More Posts

Pipe Organ Uniting Church Bathurst Image

All Stops Out Pipe Organ Celebration

150 Year Pipe Organ Celebration Concert at Bathurst Uniting Church Sunday, March 10 will see a memorable meeting of music makers, when distinguished organist Christopher Wrench, gives a recital on the church’s wonderful pipe organ, to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of its installation. The pipe organ was built in 1874 by William Davidson, and is

Ellena Hicks Mezzo Soprano Image

Ellena Hicks – Mezzo Soprano

Congratulations go to former ORG vocal student, Ellena Hicks, who was recently awarded the Royal Northern College of Music Award, and the Pasqualina Lipari prize at the IFAC Handa Australian Singing Competition.

William Moxey Baritone Image

William Moxey – Baritone

As a member of the quartet ‘Vocalise’, William gave concerts for and was recorded by the ABC.  Other highlights include working as both soloist and chorister with eminent conductors Christopher Hogwood and David Porcelijn.

Michael Butchard Tenor Image

Michael Butchard – Tenor

Michael Butchard graduated from a Master of Performance (Vocal Performance) from the Royal College of Music, London (RCM) in 2013. Michael also holds a Bachelor of Arts (Music and Germanic Studies) degree from the University of Sydney and an Advanced Diploma of Opera from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

Send Us A Message

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top