Dallas opera buff is named after scattering human remains at the Met

Dallas opera buff is named after scattering human remains at the Met


norman lebrecht

October 30, 2016

William Tell was cut short and L’italiana in Algeri cancelled yesterday after a man threw white powder into the orchestra pit during the second intermission, sparking a major security alert at the Met.

The man told people around him that he was scattering a friend’s ashes in a well-loved place.

He has been named by police as Roger Kaiser, 52, a jeweller from Dallas.


Two questions:

– Why was he allowed into the auditorium, let alone into the pit area, with a package?

– Why would any sane person find it acceptable to dispose of human remains in a place where living humans – musicians – work day and night for their livelihood?

Read a detailed firsthand account from a Musicaltoronto colleague who was there. Click here.


  • Kathy Domoney says:

    He did not gain access to the stage, according to reports he just walked down to the orchestra pit at intermission, leaned over the open area and scattered ash, then strolled out.

  • Richard Gibbs says:

    There is no suggestion that he threw the ashes into the pit from the stage. He was in the audience and merely tipped the ashes, respectfully, into the orchestra pit. As an opera lover, the deceased clearly wanted his remains to be close to the action and from the Met’s point of view, he would be in no position to register any criticism by turning in his grave. So everyone ends up happy.

    • Observer says:

      He should have asked permission from the MET. It’s a lovely idea, but it could have been done in a way that didn’t frighten or threaten the orchestra musicians in the pit.

      People work in that pit. Shouldn’t those musicians have gotten a head’s up if someone was about to dump human remains on them, or in the area where they are working?

      Come on, it’s just logical that if the guy is cultured and sentimental enough to fly in from Dallas to honor his friend, he should have just told the MET what he was planning to do and asked permission.

      Hell, the MET probably could have even enhanced the gesture by making a little ceremony out of it off-hours. But not while people are working there. Come on.

      • John Borstlap says:

        A similar incident happened in 1854 during a concert conducted by Berlioz in Breslau (now Poland) where a local lawyer poured the ashes of his beloved wife into the tuba from the balcony, just before ‘Roméo et Juliette’ (described in the 2nd part of B’s memoirs).

        • Amber says:

          I desperately want to find this passage and am not having any luck!

          • John Borstlap says:

            I have a copy of the original edition of 1865, which includes some material that was deleted when the 2nd edition of 1870 was prepared since quite some people complained about their appearance in the pages. The Breslau lawyer was one of the objectors, claiming the story about his pre-Roméo deposit was an invention, since his wife hated brass playing.

      • La Verita says:

        Oh yeah, right! The Met administration has nothing better to do than to honor requests from lunatics who want to scatter their lover’s ashes into the Met’s orchestra pit. Indeed, the Met should have a special department organized specifically for this purpose!

        • MacroV says:

          They might have said no, but asking would have been wise. Occasionally you’ll hear about someone who was, say, a lifelong fan of a particular baseball team who wants his (always his, it seems) ashes spread in the dirt of the team’s ballpark. Teams will generally accommodate it; I suspect the MET would have, too.

          I can only imagine what these two cancellations must have cost the MET.

        • Observer says:

          The “lunatic” is patron of the MET, the deceased certainly was, too. And a devoted one, at that. These patrons are the MET’s paycheck. It is in their best interest to regard such requests with respect.

          • Amber says:

            It’s “the Met.” An abbreviation of “Metropolitan.” Not an acronym for M-something E-something T-something.

          • Prudence says:

            Correction Amber… The MET officially uses all caps for their name. It is not an error to type it that way. It’s strange, but that has been their official policy for a few years now.

          • John says:

            Uh, I’m not sure if it matters whether these people were patrons or not. What they did caused one house to go home without hearing the final act and another house to not get to hear the evening’s opera at all.

            Don’t you think canceling two performances in this manner entails some expense that these patrons aren’t likely to be held responsible for, and that the inconvenience to some thousands of people who bought tickets maybe might suggest the person involved might have sought out some other means of remembering his friend?


        • Mark Okume says:

          This happens all the time at The Haunted Mansion at the Disney theme parks. They tell people not to do it, and find little piles of ashes anyway, which get vacuumed up. And parents occasionally go to Build-A-Bear with ashes of a deceased child to be built into a bear – which they always comply with.

          No one dies. As “lunacy” goes, I wish more lunacy was like this and less like some of the other stuff going on out there.

    • Amber says:

      What?! No, no one ended up happy! The audience members who didn’t get to see the cancelled performances weren’t happy. The musicians who had ashes poured on them and then had to leave their instruments untended in the pit during the investigation weren’t happy. The Met isn’t happy that it had to cancel performances they’d already paid for and then figure out a way to make it up to a rightfully disappointed audience. The police can’t be happy that they busted out their terrorism task force for this. I imagine Mr. Kaiser himself cannot be happy at the turn of events, wherein he also missed the performances to which he had tickets AND had to be questioned by the NYPD to boot. And if there is an afterlife, I can’t imagine that his mentor is happy at having been the (indirect) cause of the cancellations, especially at the Met. Really, no one was the winner here. I understand grieving and wanting to honor a dear friend, but this action fails every common sense test in the world.

  • V.Lind says:

    They ought to recover some of the costs of cancelling those two shows to this lunatic. And he ought to be charged with public mischief, the waste of time of all the analysts, etc. involved, and medically examined to see if he is right in the head.

    There may be all sorts of bleating about acts of love, etc. But he is 52, not 5, and old enough to THINK, for the love of heaven.

    And, indeed, Met security needs to wake up.

    Honestly — what a bathetic little incident.

    • Emil Archambault says:

      I’m not sure exactly what MET security could have done. Surely we don’t want airport security when going to the opera?

      • MWnyc says:

        People’s bags and backpacks (rucksacks for you Europeans) do get searched as they’re going into the Met.

        • Emil Archambault says:

          My experience of a ‘bag search’ is a five second patting and cursory look inside. Not an X-ray. And a small package could easily be hidden in a coat pocket.

    • JMO says:

      Let me tell you a little bit about this so called “lunatic”. We grew up in the same small Midwestern town and have known each other since kindergarten. His dad was a beloved teacher and basketball coach before retirement. His mom died of cancer. He scrimps and saves to be able to attend the love of his life, Operas. I pray none of you finger waggers or your close friends or family members ever do something misguided. I’ve done some really stupid things that I regret to this day. They are just not published or in the public eye. He is beyond devastated. Imagine hurting the very people that you love and idolize! I have seen the home made cards he’s made for Opera singers, other members and conductors. He’s often invited backstage; no one feared him or thought of him as a lunatic. I hope you’ll rethink your hurtful words and be thankful that none of the near misses or dumb things you’ve done were publicized. Pray for him instead, or think kind thoughts. He has enough self-loathing right now. Can you muster up any kindness for a fellow art/music/theater/opera lover?

  • SC says:

    The security precautions, though expensive, seem perfectly sensible, given the lack of any warning. At the risk of stating the obvious the US has real and recent experience of for example anthrax attacks, which will have heightened the level of concern.

  • Observer says:

    The poor man is probably mortified by now. It was out of naivete and a desire to fulfill his friend’s last wishes that he did it. There were no bad intentions here, only ignorance. I’m sure he is completely shocked and embarrassed.

    It’s like the poor old fellow whose cell phone went off in the middle of a NYPhil performance of Mahler & Alan Gilbert stopped the performance. The wrath of NY’s classical music world was suddenly launched on him. He didn’t know any better. Neither did the guy who threw the ashes. Make him pay for the cancelled performances? That’s cruel.

    Where were the MET ushers, MET security when this happened? How is it possible that an audience member could walk down to the pit with an urn of ashes, pour it into the pit, after telling everyone around him what he was going to do and walk away without being stopped and not a single usher or security rep intervened?

    This was the MET’s problem. They should chalk it up to poor security & foot the bill themselves.

    • John says:

      Sorry, but I draw a line between the poor idiot who forgot to turn off his cell phone and the total idiot who planned to do what he did. WHAT WAS HE THINKING?

  • Prudence says:

    From all accounts he did not walk into the MET with a giant metal urn. The ashes were in a small plastic bag. I don’t think it’s fair to accuse the security at the MET of being at fault. He also didn’t scatter the ashes in a grand or theatrical manner so this should be chalked up to a bizarre occurrence that no one could have foreseen.

    • Amber says:

      I appreciate the information, Prudence, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for the recent press releases on their website, for example: http://www.metopera.org/About/Press-Releases/LobbyOpenHouse/ The all-caps rebranding appears to have taken place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is its own entity. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/19/arts/the-met-and-a-new-logo.html

      Sorry, I’m perhaps a little overly interested in branding matters. None of this has any bearing on the story. And I agree completely with your sentiments. I’d say the only one to blame in this case is Mr. Kaiser himself, for not thinking this through a little better. (Interestingly enough, much of his Facebook page is public, and on September 24 he posted a comment to a friend telling of his plan to disperse some ashes at the Met in October. That friend maybe should have talked some sense into him.)

      • Long Live the MET says:

        @Amber Look, maybe you don’t agree with it, but the MET is a colloquialism that we use not just in the US but internationally. I am in Europe in a non-English speaking country. If people starting using “Met” here it would be confusing. We all use MET, it’s clearer, it’s easier,
        people understand it in different languages.

        Futhermore, it’s a very petty point to make in light of this serious situation.

        • Amber says:

          Okay. You keep your way and I’ll keep mine; it’s not that serious. By the way, I did, in fact, make substantive comments about the situation, in addition to that admittedly minor point. I’m quite familiar with serious incidents, as I lived in Manhattan from 1998-2013. Luckily this incident had no ill intent or lasting damage other than some very unhappy patrons and a financial loss for the company. The city has been through worse.

      • Stephen Owades says:

        Here’s a link to an upcoming concert by the Metropolitan Opera orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Note that they’re billed as “The MET Orchestra,” and have been—at least in their Carnegie concert series, for many years.

        • Amber says:

          Thank you for the information, Stephen — that is very interesting and I appreciate you sharing it! Since it is obviously off-topic here, I guess I will just have to ponder marketing and branding and logos on my own.

  • pmm says:

    Did the man not think that the Met gets cleaned? Even the pit!

  • Save the MET says:

    Thoroughly disgusting and disturbing. It is a violation of law to drop cremains in public parks in New York City. Dropping cremains in a heavily attended building is beyond ridiculous. This wasn’t a mere accident, it was thoughtless and deliberate. Exposing musicians, singers and the public to someone’s remains is simply stated, wrong. We have cemeteries which are the appropriate place for this sort of thing, let alone on a table in your living room, or most likely a closet. (Known many who have stored their relatives cremains for years in closets.)

    I knew a former Metropolitan Opera Board member who used to say that he had written in his will he wanted his remains scattered by helicopter over the opera house. Frankly, an insane thought exposing potentially thousands of people to their dust. His widow did not follow-up on the request. Yuck!!!

  • bratschegirl says:

    In other “bizarre activities involving cremains” news, the band Negativland is including small plastic bags containing 2 grams of the cremated remains of a former band member along with their new album. Only available while supplies last. I have absolutely no idea how this is legal, but it’s happening.


    • Steve says:

      “Steady” Ed Hedrick, who brought the Frisbee into production and is credited as the father of Disc Golf, had his ashes incleded in 250 special flyong discs for friends.

  • frank says:

    This lunatic should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Thousands of people frightened and inconvenienced, hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted so some self- indulgent drama addict could play out his silly charade of grief. BTW , the MET is graciously offering free replacement tickets to other Tell performances; however, the seats are way in the back or off to the sides.

    • Daniel F. says:

      What are they doing about those 3000 or more people with tickets for the evening’s performance of “The Italian Girl in Algiers”, which was cancelled? It was to have been the final performance of the run!

  • PJG Shaw says:

    BARKING!! One can WELL imagine the blue rinsed, fur draped fossils in the front rows of the Stalls throwing up their arms in horror! How VERY American!

  • Will says:

    Scattering remains indoors strikes me as very odd. The ashes will be promptly vacuumed up and leave the opera house in a trash bag. Is it that hard to think this through? Might as well slip into the men’s room and flush the ashes down the toilet.

  • Brian says:

    I’m reminded of the incident last year when the anti-Putin protester scaled the stage and unfurled a sign while Netrebko and Gergiev were taking bows. You’d think the Met would have beefed up its pit-side security since then.

    It does say something about the number of eccentrics who come to the Met on a regular basis.

  • Martin Anderson says:

    He should have waited for “Cenerentola”. Or “Feuersnot”. And afterwards you would need to stage “Johnny räumt auf”. (You get the idea — your suggestions, please!)

  • Mark Henriksen says:

    This kook needs to be locked up (not sure where, though).

  • seth says:

    The people here who find the need to brand this man a “kook” , “lunatic”, “crazy” ought to check their own mental status before they cast stones at others….
    Who here has never made a mistake in judgment..or done something that they might not have realized AT THE TIME was gonna have consequences that were far from intended?
    Who here has not felt so distraught at t he loss of a loved one that they might have acted in a way that went against their usual common sense?
    I am sicked by the rather extreme responses here…as if something devastating had occured… it was two friggin SHOWS that were cancelled, fer crying out loud… )(not the voting in of donald trump…which would be a disaster)

    lets keep our priorities in check…and perhaps try to muster some sympathy for a gent who felt compelled to take the action he did the other day…and… let’s move on… this is so inconsequential in the scheme of things, these days

    • V.Lind says:

      The man, an experienced attender at opera performances, took the HUMAN REMAINS of his friend IN A BAG, and attended a performance during which he marched to the front of the house, and dumped the ashes on the PROPERTY of other people — not on a plaza outside, which would have been acceptable and probably approved, but on the instruments by which some of these people make their LIVING. Aside from anything else it was probably illegal.

      I’m sorry, but that is not, to me, an action to which some of the responses above are disproportionate. This man was not just distracted by grief or committed to honouring a friend’s wishes (and those have no force of authority when laws are broken or rules breached, let alone sensibilities outraged). He was behaving in a distinctly weird manner, to put it mildly. There is hysteria or imbalance of some sort in play here. He may need help rather than punishment, but let’s not shake this off as if the audience and those commenting were some sort of nasties. Good God. I should be able to go out to the theatre without someone scattering ashes around me, or to work without my PROPERTY being invaded by someone’s ashes.

    • blair tindall says:

      Pit musicians experience indignities regularly — unavoidable in a restricted subterranean place (they know what the soles of your shoes look like, and what’s under your kilt). It’s one thing they were separated from wallets/keys with no way for some to get home, and no one particularly complained about that. But this is truly disgusting. How would an executive feel if someone waltzed in and sprinkled Uncle Fred on his desk? How about a chef, if Uncle Fred ended up dusting a crepe? Well, these musicians have to put instruments in their mouths, strike drums that may spread the cremains about, and vibrate strings that will send the stuff into an ambient air. YUCK. The Met Musicians have taken it in stride, but that’s a lot to ask of anyone. They are human beings.