When you think of opera being performed on the stage in an opera house the last thing you think of is an interactive experience powered by software algorithms, infra-red cameras and state-of-the-art technology, yet in an attempt to lure in a younger, more tech savvy audience that's exactly what the Metropolitan Opera in New York is doing.

The Damnation of Faust by Berlioz, is your typical opera fare, a story of a man who falls in love with a women and then who signs his soul away to the devil in an attempt to save her from the gallows.

"There are five levels to the set, four on show that span 60ft wide and the whole set is 40ft tall", explains Bernard Gilbert, production manager of Ex Machina, the production company behind the performance.

The set is best described as a giant Microsoft Surface, which interacts with the singers as they move around the stage or hit certain notes in the music.

"Right from the beginning when the computer birds fly across the stage their movement is controlled by the music of the orchestra. It is not a pre-recorded video", Gilbert continues.

A mix of traditional opera and cutting edge video and animation, the process is, Gilbert hopes, bringing opera to a newer audience.

"It used to be the opposite - video restricted performance, now it is reacting to the performance".

But it's not just a dazzling array of lights and videos all controlled by a man in a lighting box somewhere in the theatre. Using 12 to 18 infra-red lights the stage is blanketed in infra-red, whereby two dedicated, infra-red cameras monitor the movement.

When a singer breaks certain areas on stage with their movement it triggers the software to interact, in a very similar way to the Microsoft Surface - the multi-touch computer coffee table from the Redmond based company that brought us Windows 7.

Designed by Boris Firquet and Holger Förterer, the result is stunning, and at times you could be forgiven for thinking you're watching a massive HD TV screen.

"Instead of creating sets or designs that are there to decorate the music they should be designed to extend the music", says the production's director Robert Lepage.

Those four levels are split into 24 individual cubes, each one able to create a vivid element to the scene. The result means that rather than rolling in different stage scenery to create a scene, it can be a reflective sea one moment (based on the singers movements) and the inside of a church the next, all within a matter of seconds and reacting to the singers.

Not only can Gilbert and his team promise that no two performances are alike, but that the visual treat is much more than some "boring" painted sets that most envisage.

The show, which is more cinematic in its approach than any opera you will have likely seen before, is half way through its run at the Met in New York.

While there are currently no plans to take it around the world - it has already played in France and Japan - there are plans to bring the technology to other performances next year at the Met.

"We are currently working on a production of Der Ring des Nibelungen for the 2010-2011 season at the Met". Gilbert tells us.

One of the most ambitious works written for the Western stage, the Wagner-written series consists of four operas totalling more than 15 hours of music.

Rather than devils, angels and taverns, the story follows gods competing with giants and the Nibelungen; heroes alongside humans, who in the end of the tetralogy dominate the Earth.

Powerful stuff.

"Opera is a great meeting place between music, acting, architecture and so much more. It should invite film and other art forms too", LePage said in a video interview in 2008.

Judging by the reaction of the audience on the night of the performance we attended, the merging of these technologies into the medium certainly works.

The days of the painted set could to numbered.