SFO: tickets for tweets
San Francisco Opera has an exciting message for Twitter-savvy opera fans:
"We'll give you an opera ticket in exchange for your stellar social media skills!"
On May 25th, a select group of people will have the chance to hear the final dress rehearsal for SFO's upcoming production of Carmen, with the caveat that they spend the whole show on their phones. From designated "tweet seats", SFO is encouraging this section of the audience to post lots of photos, descriptions of sets, and of course, comments on the singing and playing, all in real-time during the evening. Anyone interested in participating has until May 19 (tomorrow) to fill in an application form, and it's important to note that anyone with "previous posts with undesirable content" on their social media feeds will likely not be granted a free ticket.
This isn't the first time an opera company has experimented with live tweeting during an opera. Opera Philadelphia, the Royal Opera House, and Opera Theater of St. Louis are among the few who have tried it out.
Any time there are "tweet seats", we get excited about following along during a production we can't catch live. Of course, the pool of sources is usually limited to a small group, so anyone hoping to piece together a full picture of what happened onstage may be out of luck. It's also a risk, since it can make these companies, not to mention the artists onstage, vulnerable to the kind of garbage that people feel brave enough to post; the level of anonymity, or at least avoiding face-to-face criticism, can bring out the worst in an audience.
Vunerable as it may be, crowd-sourcing feedback via Twitter and other social media platforms is about as unbiased as an opera company can get. Critics can make a sport out of being harsh, and often those close to the artists or company board come with a positive bias of their own.
Hopefully, "tweet seats" are a stepping stone for fully broadcast operas via Periscope or some similar platform. Money and unions are the big hurdles, to be sure, and hopefully that latter will evolve quickly enough to make sure opera doesn't miss the boat on testing out the possibilities of live opera broadcasts that we can all watch on our comfy couches.
For now, we settle on live-Tweeted operas. Remember, if you're in the Bay Area and want a free ticket to the dress rehearsal of Carmen, fill in the application form right here.