By Jackie Kostek

CHICAGO (CBS) — Back on stage for the first time since the pandemic began.

The Lyric Opera of Chicago will open its doors Friday to a live audience. CBS 2’s Jackie Kostek reports on what to expect.

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The Lyric does have strict COVID protocols in place. People will have to show proof of vaccination as they enter, they’ll have to wear their masks throughout the performance but inside, they will get to enjoy live opera in person.

In March of 2020, the Lyric Opera was nearing the end of rehearsals for a truly epic opera. Only to be upstaged by a global pandemic.

“About 2:30 on March 13th, I had to announce to the company that we had no option but to cancel the Ring,” said Anthony Freud, General Director, President and CEO of Lyric Opera of Chicago.

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He believed canceling that show was as bad as it would get. But the tragedy would continue to unfold. The next show was cancelled. So too was the entire season. Virtual performances brought some light back into an otherwise dark house, but Friday, Freud said, will be something truly special.

“The sheer emotional joy of our orchestra, our chorus, our soloists, our technicians to be back in the Opera House, back on the stage, back creating great performances of music theater,” Freud said. “It’s so emotional. It’s so overwhelming in the most joyful way possible.”

After 18 months without a live audience, it’ll be a joy to perform the great tragedy, Macbeth. And strict COVID protocols, Freud said, will hopefully ensure they’ll never have to close the curtain like last year again.

“We believe they’re essential. We believe they’re responsible and we believe that they will result in not only our being able to re-open, but more importantly to stay open,” Freud said.

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Between the performers, orchestra and front house folks, there will be hundreds of employees working tomorrow to help reopen the Lyric Opera.