By Susanna Capelouto
(CNN) — A man walked up to the front of the stage at New York’s Metropolitan Opera during intermission Saturday, reached into a bag and sprinkled a powdery substance into the orchestra pit, according to police.
The rest of the performance of “William Tell” was canceled as a safety precaution, and the opera house was ordered evacuated.
Police are investigating the substance and are looking at the possibility it may be human ashes, said John Miller, New York police deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism.
“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,” Miller said.
He 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,” said Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera.
“Ashes of an opera-loving mentor being sprinkled into the pit, although inconveniencing all of us, is a far cry better than anything else,” he said.
The Met is offering refunds to those forced to evacuate from the performance and will be open for business again Monday.
“We appreciate opera lovers coming to the Met; we hope that they will not bring their ashes with them,” Gelb said.
CNN’s Keith Allen and Anne Woolsey contributed to this report.