In preparation for going to see a matinee performance of Guillaume Tell at The Metropolitan Opera I went for a run in the morning (it’s a 5 hour opera). I completed my shopping at the green market, picked up a paper and a coffee earlier than usual. I mentally prepared myself to listen beyond the less than complimentary review published by the New York Times a couple of weeks prior. The main complaint about the show has become a common one with Peter Gelb at the helm, staging. Specifically setting the action in the abstract. I also set out early to make the 12 o’clock curtain because I live uptown (Inwood aka upstate Manhattan) and the A-train has been recently replaced by a bus between 207th and 168th Street on weekends. I made it to Lincoln Center in comfortable time. My seat was one of the best in the house (it was a gift). This co-production between The Met and the Dutch National Opera of Rossini’s last opera, Guillaume Tell, was the first time it has been sung in French at the Met and the first time they’ve done the opera in decades. The conductor, Fabio Luisi, was really great. It was alarming to me that he could make that famous, maybe even overplayed overture really expressive and fresh. The main characters had great voices most notably Marina Rebeka as Mathilde. The look of the production seemed to be loosely aping rebel forces (the oppressed) versus imperial forces (the oppressors) a la the movie, Star Wars. There were three large white neon pillars for the forces of good and one giant red neon pillar for evil. The costumes were loose linen oatmeal colored wraps for the rebels and steampunk, black leather suits and top-hats for the men, overlarge bustles for the women for the imperials (the soldiers had steel grey chain-mail vests and skull caps). Gesler, the bass, John Relyea, had a smooth steel grey skullcap which covered half of his face…not dissimilar from the Phantom of The Opera. These are examples of what I had to focus past in order to absorb the music and story. Gerald Finley was excellent as the title character and Janai Brugger as Jemmy (his son) had an incredible voice. The whole cast really all just had top notch, gorgeous voices (the women were stronger than the men in my opinion). My seat neighbor was a charming, elderly lady whom bid me adieu with, “that’s enough for me” at the end of the fourth act. Previously she said that initially she was thrown by the modernity of the production but got into it. Little did she know that her exit couldn’t have been better timed. I got back to my seat after a plastic glass of ridiculously priced Merlot prepared to witness the fate of our hero and his son. We waited. The doors were closed. Security guys were just standing by the doors. Nothing happening. The start of the final act was taking too long, what’s up? No musicians entered the orchestra pit to tune up/warm up. Finally a house manager came out and said that they were experiencing a snag backstage but that everyone was okay and it would be a little while longer. The audience grew restless after a while longer passed. A rhythmic clap began among some as though to elicit an encore….the house manager (I assumed) came back, apologized and said that the production was over!! A man began yelling “I want my money back, I want my money back” to which other audiences members retorted “Shut up!”. The house manager resumed with a suggestion to contact customer service and to please come back to see Guillaume Tell. NO FURTHER explanation. I had my focus set on this production, I prepared for it, I overlooked the aspects I disliked, I very much enjoyed the music…cut off. Unfinished. I was furious. Did a diva throw a fit? Did a wealthy Trump patron somehow sabotage the show? What happened to, “THE SHOW MUST GO ON”???
“Today’s performance of Guillaume Tell was canceled during the second intermission because of a disturbance by an audience member, who sprinkled an unidentified powdered substance into the orchestra pit. The NYPD is investigating the incident,” the statement read.
“We have spoken to more than one witness, who said they spoke to an individual from out of town who indicated he was here to sprinkle ashes of a friend, his mentor in opera, during the performance. That is certainly an area which we’re pursuing,” John Miller, New York police deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism told CNN.
Miller said police know the man’s identity but won’t release his name.
Officials at the Met appeared relieved at the prospect that the substance could have been ashes.
“This was taken very seriously by the Met,” Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, told CNN.
“Ashes of an opera-loving mentor being sprinkled into the pit, although inconveniencing all of us, is a far cry better than anything else,” Gelb said.
NOT QUITE SURE what Gelb means. One jerk disrupts the opera, the performers, the audience members and that’s better than WHAT??