It wasn't quite Broadway's "Phantom of the Opera," but at the Metropolitan Opera, the surprise spectacle was equally ghastly — and real: An opera fan scattered what authorities say may be cremated human remains into the orchestra pit.
Saturday's scare, which drew the city's anti-terrorism police to the nation's premier opera house, was diffused by Sunday. After conducting tests, investigators ruled out anthrax or any other dangerous substance.
But law enforcement authorities did not officially name the powdery substance that stopped the performance of Gioachino Rossini's "William Tell" on Saturday afternoon.
Nearly 4,000 spectators were quickly evacuated after the dramatic intermission incident at about 4:30 p.m. The evening production of another Rossini opera also was canceled as a precaution.
Authorities say powdering the pit may have been meant as a tribute to the spectator's opera-loving late mentor and friend. The perpetrator is a Texas resident, a police spokesman said.
Authorities did not release his name but know who he is and were reaching out to him, said John Miller, the NYPD's deputy commissioner in charge of intelligence and counterterrorism.
Miller said on Saturday that the disposal of ashes at an opera house may violate city codes but "I don't believe at this point that we see any criminal intent here."
He said the possibility that the substance was human ashes "is certainly an area that we are pursuing."
Met General Manager Peter Gelb said people who had Saturday tickets should call the Met and make arrangements to see a later performance.