Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, which forms the cornerstone of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s three-week festival Reveries and Passions, “[depicts] a world where everything that is important is between the lines,” observes conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen in this video interview. “Most important are the things [the characters] don’t say. Here of course we need music to be the narrative force under and beyond words.”

Salonen leads the CSO in three performances of the opera, to be presented May 14, 16 and 19 at Symphony Center, with video projections and a narration (by actress Dianne Wiest). The cast is headlined by baritone Stéphane Degout (Pelléas), mezzo Jenny Carlstedt (Mélisande) and bass-baritone Sir Willard White (Golaud).

Pelléas “has a kind of evocative power that is very rare,” Salonen says. “It affects me very deeply.”