A large-scale composition that includes an orchestra, a chorus, and solo vocalists. An oratorio is usually based on religious text, or some similarly weighty material. It is different from opera in that it normally does not feature action, costumes, or scenery.
Oratorios became prominent in the 17th and 18th centuries. Perhaps the best-known oratorio is Handel’s Messiah. It meets all the expectations of this dramatic genre: gripping text compiled from the scriptures, a broad range of emotions, and a thundering climax – the “Hallelujah Chorus.”