What is oratorio?

  • (noun): A musical composition for voices and orchestra based on a religious text.
    Synonyms: cantata


An oratorio is a large musical composition including an orchestra, a choir, and soloists. Like an opera, an oratorio includes the use of a choir, soloists, an ensemble, various distinguishable characters, and arias. However, opera is musical theatre, while oratorio is strictly a concert piece—though oratorios are sometimes staged as operas, and operas are sometimes presented in concert form. In an oratorio there is generally little or no interaction between the characters, and no props or elaborate costumes. A particularly important difference is in the typical subject matter of the text. Opera tends to deal with history and mythology, including age-old devices of romance, deception, and murder, whereas the plot of an oratorio often deals with sacred topics, making it appropriate for performance in the church. Protestant composers took their stories from the Bible, while Catholic composers looked to the lives of saints. Oratorios became extremely popular in early 17th century Italy partly because of the success of the opera and the Church's prohibition of spectacles during Lent. Oratorios became the main choice of music during that period for opera audiences.

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Some articles on oratorio:

The Light Of The World (Sullivan) - Critical Reaction
... The Observer wrote "The oratorio is one of imagination, of not only clever ideas, but of really devotional religious thought ... due reflection the general opinion is that in his oratorio Mr ... where it holds a prominent position as a specimen of the new type of oratorio, the dignity of which it upholds ...
The Light Of The World (Sullivan)
... The Light of the World is an oratorio composed in 1873 by Arthur Sullivan ... The story of the oratorio narrates the whole life of Christ, focusing on his deeds on Earth as preacher, healer and prophet ... The oratorio was inspired by William Holman Hunt's popular 1853-54 painting, The Light of the World ...
List Of Compositions By Simon Mayr - Church Music - Oratorios and Sacred Dramas
... Iacob e Labano fugiens, oratorio in Latin, libretto by Giuseppe Foppa, Venice, 1791 Sisara, oratorio in Latin, libretto by Giuseppe Foppa, Venice, 1793 ...
Oratorio, Santa Rosa
... Oratorio is a municipality in the Santa Rosa department of Guatemala ... On the outskirts of the regional centerplace, Cuilapa, Oratorio is mainly an agricultural worker habitat ... Oratorio sits in a deep valley, so the sun rises late and sets early ...