NEW YORK, JAN. 23 -- An 82-year-old opera buff fell to his death from the top balcony of the Metropolitan Opera House today during an intermission in a performance of Verdi's "Macbeth," which was being broadcast nationally on radio, authorities said.

The man, a regular opera-goer, fell about 80 feet onto an aisle in the orchestra section midway between the stage and the rear of the hall, according to Johanna Fiedler, a Metropolitan Opera spokeswoman.

The man, identified as Bantcho Bantchevsky, was dead when officers arrived at the Lincoln Center opera house, police spokesman Sgt. Norris Hollomon said. It was not known whether he fell or jumped, Hollomon said.

The seats near the spot where the man landed were empty, and no other injuries were reported, Fiedler said.

"There was terrible screaming by people who saw the body coming down," said Sophie Blecker of Great Neck. "It's a horror."

The incident occurred about 3:30 p.m. during the second intermission of the opera. The remainder of the performance, broadcast to a nationwide radio audience, was canceled. Radio listeners were told the broadcast was being curtailed because of an emergency.

Joe Panarello of East Patchogue, one of the stunned opera-goers milling around afterward, said he saw the well-dressed man fall backward over the railing of the family circle balcony and land on the floor.

"The entire crowd was panic-stricken," Panarello said. "I ran down to the first ring. Someone had put something over him -- a coat or something."

He said the man had been involved in a small disturbance during the first intermission.

"He was leaning on the railing" during the first intermission, he said. "I saw him being restrained by an usher. He was talking to a lady beside him."