New York’s Metropolitan Opera was forced to cut tonight’s performance of Guillaume Tell short after an audience member sprinkled an unidentified white powdery substance into the orchestra pit during the second intermission. The individual fled the scene and is still being sought by police. While no one was hurt, this evening’s performance of L’Italiana In Algeri has also been cancelled while the incident is investigated by the authorities.
UPDATE: Police have identified the individual who sprinkled the powder through video surveillance footage and interviews with witnesses, The New York Times reports. Police now believe the substance to be human ashes, as the man reportedly told several other patrons that he was at the opera specifically to scatter his mentor’s ashes during the performance. John J. Miller, the deputy police commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism for the Police Department, says that while the act may have been in violation of the city’s health code, there was no criminal intent.
UPDATE 2: And the case is closed! As The New York Times reports, the terrorism scare was inadvertently caused by one Roger Kaiser, a Texas opera buff who has been dispersing the ashes of a friend, whom he described as an “opera mentor,” at opera houses around the country. “It was just part of our deal that I would leave bits of him in all the houses I visit,” Kaiser wrote in a Facebook post last month after a trip to a Colorado opera house. “The MET is next, late next month.”
Kaiser reportedly told investigators that he tries to scatter the ashes discreetly to avoid causing unnecessary alarm. And he didn’t mean to flee the scene — he just walked out of the opera house to get dinner, and was hoping to come back to catch the evening show. “This guy is not a bad guy,” one police official says. “He’s really just a friend who lost his friend and is following out his wishes.” The police, in consultation with the Met, have decided not to charge Kaiser with any crime. Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, says that he hopes opera lovers will refrain from bringing human ashes to performances in the future