Difference Between Oratorio, Cantata and Opera

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Oratorio and cantata were two genres that re-emerged in the first half of the eighteenth century. They were already important musical alternatives to opera by the mid-seventeenth century, but differed in nearly every respect from the genres of the same names found in the early eighteenth century. As genres late in the period, they both bespoke the traditions from which they originally sprang and permitted new recombination of the musical elements of these same traditions.
The oratorio and cantata of the eighteenth century were both linked, unlike opera, to religious themes. Although intended for very different uses and circumstances of performance, all three genres contained musical commalities. Not surprisingly, the three genres would
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Handel's discovery of oratorio was quite accidental and came in the form of a commission from Dublin. His appreciation of its possibilites was immediate, and the die was cast that he would devote the rest of his creative life to composing in the genre.
Handel's libretti were drawn literally from the Bible, though the verses he used were not necessarily consecutive ones. His musical style in the oratorios is a reversion to the high Baroque idiom, and in oratorio he abandonned the fashionable new stile galant touches he used in in his last operas in hopes of saving them from financial failure. His choral style resonates with fugal writing, but this too is affected by older traditions. His fugues are not the monthematic ones that German organ composers wrote to fill the time before the worship service. Instead the subjects could change as the work unfolded or the imitative texture could be abandonned altogether. The music was controlled by the dramatic needs, not requirements of musical form, and, in this respect Handel's choral fugues show a direct and strong linkage to both Grand Concerto and madrigal! Another madrigal element is Handel's use of music to set mood or depict events. In madrigal, tone painting was a rather local and sometimes puerile device; in Handel, musical depiction occurs on a grand and alomost profound scale. Handel's oratorios also approach recitative differently than opera

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