With the superbly balanced and forceful singing of his Los Angeles Master Chorale, an alert, polished Sinfonia Orchestra and communicative soloists, conductor Paul Salamunovich accomplished the not inconsiderable task of bringing Mendelssohn's hoary oratorio "Elijah" to life on Sunday in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the opening event of the Chorale's 30th anniversary season.
As the long evening progressed, the composer's Victorian pieties and harmonic platitudes faded to insignificance before admiration for the choral effort, which provided not only proof of force in numbers, but also exhibited the less frequently encountered blandishments of crispness of articulation (verbal and musical) and delicacy.
Salamunovich led his charges with canny expertise and the wide dynamic range that is perhaps the ultimate test of a large vocal ensemble's skill.
The Master Chorale not only passed but, to this listener's ears, established its own latter-years standard of excellence.
As the personification of the prophet Elijah, Kurt Ollmann exuded baritonal finesse and warmth. A somewhat dazed, youthful charm marked his portrayal, even where Mendelssohn may have demanded a more sternly authoritarian demeanor of his Old Testament prophet.
But this could be of concern only to those who regard "Elijah" as a devotional exercise.
The solo contingent also offered Lesley Leighton's ringing, somewhat unruly, gutsy and exciting soprano; the sturdily expressive tenor of Agostino Castagnola; and the ethereal, uncommonly well-pitched treble of 11-year-old Michael Waring.