ST. LOUIS (KPLR) - The orchestra is tuning, the lights are dimming, and then there is the announcement, in a booming baritone voice just to make sure people heed the warning: 'Please make sure all cell phones and pagers have been switched off. Thank you, and enjoy the opera.'
But at Opera Theater of St. Louis, a company known for breaking the rules, on a limited number of nights, they now encourage certain members of the audience to also break the rules by turning ON their cell phones, and tweeting.
'We invite people in who have major followings on Twitter and ask if they would share their opinions just as we would a traditional journalist,' said Opera Theater of St. Louis General Director Timothy O`Leary.
'Nowadays, we are in a totally different media world and it`s not just a few critics informing the public of what`s going on; now, if you are going to make an impression you need to be in all forms of media including social media and Twitter,' O`Leary said.
The Tweet Seats, as they are called, are limited to the back two rows of the house, and offered only a few nights a season to tweeters who go through an application process. Those who make the grade get their seats for free.
Of course for the tweeters, trying to follow the dozens of characters on stage, while simultaneously trying to manage up to 140 characters in their tweets is not always easy.
'After you do it a couple of times you get used to it and you know where the pauses are where you can start tweeting,' said Deanna Carpenter, who was one of the first tweeters to try this.
'I have tweeted a couple of things saying, `this didn`t really work for me, but I kind of understand where he was trying to go with it,` so it's constructive criticism, not a bad tweet,' Carpenter said.
Those following the tweets 'live,' sometimes include the singers themselves.
Carpenter tweeted an invitation to tenor René Barbera to participate in a community project, and he accepted during the performance.
'If you are between entrances and you are backstage what better way to see how it`s going, 'O`Leary said.
'In the old days, you`d have to wait to hear the audience applaud to know how they felt. Now, you can read the live tweets as they come out,' he said.
Still, even Tweet Seat veterans admit using their smartphones during a performance feels naughty.
'When we first sat down, I actually put my phone away,' said tweeter Jennifer Lin.
'I love it,' she said.
'It is a really different way to experience the opera.'