Last weekend two performances of the Metropolitan Opera were canceled when a counter-terrorism response team evacuated Lincoln Center after a man scattered the ashes of his “opera mentor” into the orchestra pit. Yesterday the NYPD announced that the man will not be charged with any crime, even though his act cost the Met an estimated $500,000. The New York Times has published his apology letter to the Met:
“I never imagined I would ever need to sit down and write an apology to several thousand opera goers, to all the people behind the scenes and in the productions, to the staff of such a beloved arts organization, and to New York’s emergency responders,” the man, Roger Kaiser, wrote. “Yet I find myself needing to extend a heartfelt apology to all concerned for inadvertently creating a disturbance at the Metropolitan Opera last weekend.”
In the letter, addressed to Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, and “the entire Metropolitan Opera community,” Mr. Kaiser wrote about his love of opera and his devotion to the friend who taught him about it. He said he had come up with the ash-scattering idea in 2012 when his friend, whom he identified as Terry Turner, was dying of cancer.
“I told Terry that if he would like, I would take some of his ashes to opera houses that I visited in the future,” Mr. Kaiser wrote. “Trying to lighten the mood, I jokingly told Terry they would never be able to vacuum all of him up. He would be there forever enjoying all the beautiful music.” Mr. Kaiser said “the ugly possibilities” had never occurred to him. He called his act “a sweet gesture to a dying friend that went completely and utterly wrong in ways that I could never have imagined.”
“I impacted people who came to see an opera that was being performed at the Met for the first time in 80 years. People who came to hear what may be one of Maestro Levine’s last outings on the podium. People who came to experience top-notch singers at the best opera house in the world.”—and he added, “Opera is so much more than just something I enjoy. I LOVE IT. I have no real musical knowledge or training. Just a pretty good ear and a whole lot of enthusiasm. An enthusiasm that blinded me from seeing the potential risks involved in scattering the ashes of my mentor in the orchestra pit of the Met.”
Met general manager Peter Gelb responds:
“Although your action on behalf of your friend caused the members of our company several anxious hours, severely disappointed our audiences, and cost the Met, its artists and the City many thousands of dollars, I appreciate the sincerity of your apology and the innocence of your intentions, even though misguided. I trust that your future visits to the Met will be without incident, and that you will continue to proselytize about your love of opera to all those who will listen.”