Oratorio is a large musical composition for orchestra, choir and soloists. It has several similarities with opera ( for example, there are distinct characters, costumes, arias), however an opera is musical theater, while oratorio is a concert work , (however, operas are staged as oratorios sometimes and oratorios are staged as operas). Generally speking, in oratorio there is no interaction between the characters and there may be no costumes. An important difference between two genres is the plot of the story. Opera usually deals with history and mythology including romances, scams, murders. An oratorio's story usually refers to religious themes, suitable for performance in church. Protestant composers took their themes from the Bible, while Catholics were inspired by the lives of saints. Oratorios were extremely popular during the 17th century in Italy. This was partly due to the success of opera and because of the prohibition of spectacles during Lent by the church (During the Lent opera was forbidden, so public turned to oratorio).
From 1600 to 1700
According to Willi Apel, the oratorio' s history begins in the mid 16th century << when Philippe Neri inaugurated in Rome a special order, the "oratoriani" and established a building called "oratorio">>. These included readings from scriptures, a sermon and a singing of laude. A type of laude was the " dialogue-
Liturgical dramas of the late Middle Ages and the mystery plays of the 14th and 15th centuries are included to oratorio's forerunners. Although there have been records of a few works that have the characteristics of an oratorio since middle ages, the work "Raptresentatione di Anima et di Corpo" (1600) of Emilio de Cavalieri ( libretto by Agostino Manni) is considered to be the first oratorio. On the other hand, there are many to consider the work of Claudio Monteverdi ,"Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda", as the first secular oratorio. Some researchers have challenged that both works belong to the genre of oratorio.
During 1650 some changes were observed. Religious Oratorio tended to be "secular". There were performances outside the church, in backyards and public theaters. But whether secular or religious, the story of the oratorio was "momentous". Topics such as Creation, the life of Christ, a classical hero or prophet were included. At that time most composers of oratorio also were popular composers of opera . They began to publish the librettos of their work, as they did with the operatic librettos. Soon they emphasized the arias and they decreased the choir part. Alongside female entertainers appeared while the man narrator was replaced by recitative. In the mid-
1. Oratorio Volgare (in Italian)
This type had a duration of 30-
2. Oratorio latino (in Latin).Most were consisted of one part .
The most important representative of the oratorio latino was Giacomo Carissimi. His work "Jephte" considered the first masterpiece of the genre. A German composer, Heinrich Schütz was the first oratorio composer with the following works: Historia der Auferstehung (1623) and "Christmas Oratorio" (1664). The latter is considered to be of a great artistic value and it can be compared with Bach's Christmas Oratorio, written a century later .The Oratory of the late Baroque to 1800.
A.Scarlatti wrote many oratorios but only 18 survived with music. Their style is very close to that of Scarlatti's opera although they had not the same success. J.S. Bach was the one who continued the tradition of Heinrich Schütz writing the "Christmas Oratorio" . Other composers before Bach, such as Buxtehude, preferred the shorter form of the cantata than Oratorio).
The most famous oratorio composer of Great Britain during the Georgian period was the German-
Oratorios also had been composed during 19th century (Felix Mendelssohn, Georg Vierling. The latter is the one who modernized the form of the secular oratorio). During 20th century composers such as Stravinsky, Arthur Honegger, Krzysztof Penderecki, and pop composers such Paul Mc Cartney wrote Oratorios.
Willi Apel: Harvard dictionary of music,second edition, eighth printing