NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police interviewed a person of interest in connection with their investigation into someone apparently sprinkling cremains into the orchestra pit at the Metropolitan Opera House and causing a security scare.
Police were called and a performance of Gioachino Rossini’s “Guillaume Tell” was canceled at the opera house at Lincoln Center, after the powdery substance was sprinkled during second intermission around 5:23 p.m.
“We have spoken to more than one witness who said they spoke to an individual from out of town who indicated that he was here to sprinkle ashes of a friend – his mentor in opera – during the performance,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counter-terrorism John Miller said on WCBS 880.
Miller said the man sprinkling the ashes was noticed by the orchestra.
“Members of the orchestra, during an intermission in the show, noticed an individual in a suit who approached the orchestra pit, reached into a bag, removed a powdery substance, sprinkled that into the orchestra pit, moved further down, reached into the bag again, and sprinkled more of the substance into the orchestra pit,” Miller said.
He said no one was struck by the ashes.
“It was tossed in small amounts from in front of the front row down into the orchestra pit. The intermission was going on, so the only people in the orchestra pit were a couple of musicians who were lingering,” Miller said.
“As it seems to be the case, obviously ashes of an opera lovers mentor being sprinkled into the pit, although certainly inconveniencing all of us, is a far cry better than anything else. You know we appreciate opera lovers coming to The Met, we hope that they will not bring ashes with them,” General Manager Peter Gelb said in a statement.
Chair of the Metropolitan Opera Committee Jessica Phillips released a statement, saying “While this incident is extremely troubling to say the least, we are grateful that no one was seriously injured and none of the priceless instruments which had to be abandoned in the orchestra pit, due to emergency evacuation, suffered any damage. I’m sure that on Monday morning the Met Opera be reevaluating it’s security protocols.”
Miller said police identified someone they wanted to interview.
“We reviewed security cameras as well as other systems here within the Met, and were able to identify an individual who we believe is somebody who we’d like to talk to,” he said.
That person was released and no charges were filed, police said Sunday night.
Miller said sprinkling cremains in public places is not a new phenomenon, though it has not been seen before at the Met Opera.
“We have had people do this in other venues – stadiums, public places, monuments – in trying to honor people. So it’s not something that we haven’t seen before,” he said.
Audience members were instructed to call the Met’s Customer Care department at (212) 362-6000 to make arrangements to see the show at a later date.