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At This Boot Camp, Live Performances Are A Welcome Return To Normal

DES PLAINES, Ill. (CBS) -- They call it boot camp -- an intense training program for young opera singers here in the Chicago area.

CBS 2's Jim Williams tells us they're thrilled to back on stage after pandemic sidelined them a year ago

They come from different parts of the world, but on this stage in suburban Des Plaines, this is a homecoming for everyone.

"It's an amazing feeling just to feel the crowd and to just feel the stage again, like a part of me was missing," said Tamra Harkley

Emma Leigh Webster said: "I think as a performer to get energy from an audience is something we feed off of and it allows us to have this amazing performance."

The performances are enhanced by the audience and honed by the training these young opera singers are getting at Chicago Summer Opera.

Alex Soare is general director and co founder.

"It's kind of summer boot camp for opera singers that are either in college of just finished college or looking to add more roles to their resume," said Soare.

More 650 singers have gone through the program since it started nine years ago. It includes voice and acting lessons. Each year, they perform multiple operas before a live audience. Every student gets a role.

COVID-19 shut it down last year. Now they're back.

Chicago Summer Opera did a survey and found 98 percent of all who participated had been vaccinated. Still, there are other precautions.

Class times are staggered to keep student gatherings small. Temperatures are routinely taken, too. The payoff -- live performances returned this summer.

Mia Flora is a student at the University of Miami.

"I performed in a big theatre in March but because of social distancing the audience was really small, so this is super exciting," she said.

Jayne Diliberto's family will be in the audience. It's been a long time.

"I go to school in San Francisco, and I've only had one opportunity to perform since the pandemic. It was a livestream so tonight is the first time they're going to see me live which is pretty exciting."

Opera boot camp in nearly complete.

"It's going to be a big relief when we take our final bows on Sunday. One season complete and hopefully we'll be back in 2022," said Soare.


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