The Metropolitan Opera cancelled the last act of its performance of Rossini’s classic opera Guillaume Tell on Saturday afternoon because an audience member spread what police believed were cremated remains into the orchestra pit during intermission. The opera to be performed on Saturday night also was cancelled as a result of the incident.
According to the New York Times, a man in attendance told other audience members that he was at the opera to spread the ashes of his mentor. During the second intermission, the man was seen reaching into a black bag and sprinkling a powdery substance into two parts of the orchestra pit — which caused the cancellation of the rest of the opera because the powder was viewed as a potential threat and was subjected to testing. The man apparently has been identified through video surveillance footage, and police are trying to reach him. A follow-up story in the Times identifies the man, who apparently has posted on his Facebook page that he plans to leave some of the ashes at every opera house he and his mentor have visited.
Apparently, spreading cremated remains in a place like the orchestra pit at the Metropolitan Opera isn’t a per se offense under New York law — at least, if you aren’t acting with criminal intent — but rather is simply a health code violation.
It’s weird to think that someone would decide that it was appropriate to spread cremated remains in the midst of an actual performance of an opera — or for that matter, any live event, whether it’s a football game or a rock concert. It’s pretty selfish, too, when you think about it. This guy’s mentor evidently was an opera lover, and yet the act of spreading his ashes caused opera performances to be cancelled. If I were one of the people holding tickets to a performance that was cancelled — especially if I’d travelled from out of state to see the Met — I’d be furious.