Unknown powder sprinkled into pit halts NY opera performance

FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2014, file photo, pedestrians make their way in front of the Metropolitan Opera house at New York's Lincoln Center. New York's Metropolitan Opera stopped a performance Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, after someone sprinkled an unknown powder into the orchestra pit. Met spokesman Sam Neuman said Saturday afternoon's performance of "Guillaume Tell" was canceled during the second intermission because of the incident. A police spokeswoman said the person who sprinkled the powder fled and is being sought. (AP Poto/John Minchillo, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2014, file photo, pedestrians make their way in front of the Metropolitan Opera house at New York's Lincoln Center. New York's Metropolitan Opera stopped a performance Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, after someone sprinkled an unknown powder into the orchestra pit. Met spokesman Sam Neuman said Saturday afternoon's performance of "Guillaume Tell" was canceled during the second intermission because of the incident. A police spokeswoman said the person who sprinkled the powder fled and is being sought. (AP Poto/John Minchillo, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — New York’s Metropolitan Opera halted a performance Saturday after someone sprinkled an unknown powder into the orchestra pit.

Met spokesman Sam Neuman said the afternoon’s performance of “Guillaume Tell” was canceled during the second intermission after the person sprinkled the powder into the pit from the orchestra section.

“As a safety precaution, the Met canceled the remainder of the performance,” Neuman said in a statement.

A police spokeswoman said the person who sprinkled the powder fled and was being sought.

Police initially said one person at the opera house requested medical attention. They later said no one was injured.

The Met also canceled Saturday night’s performance of “L’Italiana in Algeri” because of the investigation.

Audience members at “Guillaume Tell” described confusion as the intermission went on longer than usual.

A Met representative at first announced that a technical issue was causing the delay, then returned a few minutes later to announce that the fourth act would not be performed. The audience was told to go home.

“Everybody kind of slowly walked out,” said Dylan Hayden of Toronto. “As we were exiting the building, I noticed the counter-terrorism unit going into the building.”

Hayden, who was seated in the 11th row back, added, “The idea that they said that it was a technical error, when I was maybe 15 feet away from a potential dangerous substance, that kind of irks me a little bit. But at no point did I feel an actual threat.”

Micaela Baranello, a musicologist at Smith College in Massachusetts, said some audience members booed when the cancellation was announced and one man chanted, “I want my money back, I want my money back.”

Neuman said people who had Saturday tickets to either opera should call the Met and make arrangements to see a later performance.

Baranello, who spoke by phone from a train headed back to Massachusetts, said that’s not so easy for opera fans who don’t live in New York. “It’s too bad because most of the best music in ‘Guillaume Tell’ is in Act 4, in my opinion,” she said.

“Guillaume Tell,” Rossini’s opera about folk hero William Tell, had not been performed at the Met in more than 80 years before this season. The opera’s overture is known to many Americans as the theme music to the 1950s TV show “The Lone Ranger.