[awr-uh-tawr-ee-oh, -tohr-, or-]
noun, plural oratorios.
an extended musical composition with a text more or less dramatic in character and usually based upon a religious theme, for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra, and performed without action, costume, or scenery.

1625–35; < Italian: small chapel < Late Latin ōrātōrium oratory2; so named from the musical services in the church of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Rome

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World English Dictionary
oratorio (ˌɒrəˈtɔːrɪəʊ)
n , pl -rios
a dramatic but unstaged musical composition for soloists, chorus, and orchestra, based on a religious theme
[C18: from Italian, literally: oratory², referring to the Church of the Oratory at Rome where musical services were held]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

"long musical composition, usually with a text based on Scripture," 1727 (in Eng. 1644 in native form oratory), from It. oratorio (late 16c.), from Church L. oratorium (see oratory (2)), in ref. to musical services in the church of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Rome,
where old mystery plays were adapted to religious services.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

oratorio definition

A musical composition for voices and orchestra, telling a religious story.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
Perhaps the problem is simply that as pastoral ode, neither opera nor oratorio, the work falls between pigeonholes.
Thenceforth, she made her career as a recitalist and an oratorio singer.
History of the oratorio, from its beginnings in the sixteenth century to its present-day form.
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