An '''oratorio''' is a large musical composition for orchestra, choir, and soloists, according to Wiki/TheOtherWiki. Like an opera, an oratorio has recognizable characters, and is similar in length. Oratorios also tell a story. But unlike operas, oratorios are strictly concert pieces, with no props or costumes.

Oratorios are usually religious in nature, telling a story from the Bible or a saint's legend. The form was invented to keep the opera singers employed during Lent, when the theatres were closed down.

Oratorios are also similar to [[{{Cantata}} cantatas]], in that cantatas are also large-scale vocal works and occasionally identifiable characters, but they usually do not tell a story (Bach's Coffee Cantata is a notable exception).

The generally recognized king of oratorios is Music/GeorgeFredericHandel (much as his contemporary UsefulNotes/JohannSebastianBach was the king of cantatas), who wrote lots of them because they were cheaper to produce than operas but brought in nearly as many people . Handel's ''Messiah'' (the source of the famous Hallelujah chorus) is probably the best-known oratorio out there, though J.S. Bach's two extant oratorios, the St. Matthew Passion and the St. John Passion, are also well-known.