On Saturday, the Met had to cancel the final act of its performance of Rossini’s “Guillaume Tell.” This time, no one actually died in the house. Rather, a man in the audience chose to memorialize a friend and mentor by scattering his ashes in the orchestra pit.
Authorities say they know the identity of the man and have reached out to him. John Miller, a New York Police Department deputy commissioner, told Fox News that although the act may have violated city code, police did not see “criminal intent.”
Perhaps it says something about opera that anyone should think an opera house is a suitable repository for mortal remains. The man, evidently, told other patrons what he had come to do; no one acted to prevent him. The authorities, alas, take a different view: The Met also had to cancel the evening’s performance of “L’Italiana in Algeri,” also by Rossini, while the situation was investigated and cleaned up.
Margaret Shannon, a local music fan and singer, pointed out the parallels to the Chicago Cubs, who during the current World Series have repeated their oft-voiced prohibition on the spreading of loved ones’ ashes at Wrigley Field. Evidently, these proscriptions are ignored by many passionate fans. “There are pounds and pounds of cremated remains at Wrigley,” a funeral director, Brooke Benjamin, told the Chicago Sun-Times, and some fans even confessed to the newspaper that they had released a bit of Dad at the ballpark.
It is fervently hoped that such traditions do not take hold at the Metropolitan Opera, or in any other opera house. The traditional repertoire is dusty enough — or at least, this story will only reinforce that stereotype in the minds of those who have not yet ventured in to see opera for themselves.