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The first task was to gather what can be called opera. Quite a few vocal works are not classified in that genre because they are considered as oratorios as if an oratorio was not an opera (a musical work entirely sung generally in two tones, prosodic and psalmodic). That goes back to the Old Testament which is divided in its accompanying music, written in the margins, in these two tones. It is of course present in any oratorio, starting in the 13th century in Beauvais Cathedral with Ludus Danielis.
The opera is only the transfer of this religious musical genre into the secular field. The opera is nothing but a secular oratorio. And can we see a musical difference between operas and oratorios in Handel and are Bach’s Passions oratorios or operas? Some purist will tell you the opera was invented in Italy, etc. Purity leads to closure. This geographic definition of the opera was introduced in a time when we did not know the musical accompaniment of the Old Testament probably codified by the music school set up by King David. At that time too Ludus Danielis was unknown and Italy was torn apart by two styles, one favored by the Roman Popes and remaining very narrowly religious and traditional, and another secular and bound to flourish in the Italian opera houses that were still to be invented and built in the 16th-17th centuries when that artistic quarrel between the Church and society was starting to rage with Monteverdi.
Anyway it does not apply to Benjamin Britten for the simple reason that he does not differentiate the recitative from the arias. The music is the same in tone and style from beginning to end. Then the difference between operas and oratorios, if there is one, is purely because of the religious dimension of oratorios. That is light and semantic.
You will hereafter find my notes on the 21 works I classify in this field, in chronological order, some small, some big, some famous, some less well-known, but all in a distinctive musical style that is unique and yet that is also very closely articulated on the music of the 20th century. Benjamin Britten knew his classics, even the modern classics of his time, and borrowing or imitating are fundamental: he is able to use the style of anyone and turns it into his own style that is first of all transformative.