A man has a casual affair with a woman and then dumps her. The woman, now with child, longs for his return but is coldly rebuffed. Humiliated and left with nothing to live for, she kills herself with a sharp blade to the throat.
The story of Puccini's "Madame Butterfly" is a tragedy written in florid, grandiose letters. Change the setting from imperial
"Butterfly" is currently running at Los Angeles Opera, through Dec. 9. This fall also marks the 25th anniversary of "Fatal Attraction," which was released in 1987 and forever changed the gender dynamics of the one-night stand.
James Dearden's screenplay never tries to hide its operatic influences. "Fatal Attraction" features two crucial scenes set to Puccini's music (or three, if you count the movie's original ending -- more on that later). Revisiting the film more than two decades on, it's easier to pick out some of the less obvious operatic references that the filmmakers incorporated in their rich rabbit soup.
The subtext will not be ignored. Is it a coincidence that Dan Gallagher (
Alex's apartment in the
Real-estate transactions figure prominently in both stories. "Butterfly" begins with Lt. B.F. Pinkerton inspecting a new house. In the movie, Dan and his wife, Beth (
If you listen carefully to the movie, you can hear Maurice Jarre's synthesizer score sampling from the Puccini
"Fatal Attraction" contains two outright nods to "Butterfly" -- when Dan plays the aria "Con Onor Muore," prompting Alex to enact the scene by slicing her wrists. Later, when Dan rejects her "peace-offering" tickets to see "Butterfly" at the Metropolitan Opera, Alex revisits the recording alone in her apartment, flicking the lamplight on and off in a catatonic stupor.
The movie's original ending, which was famously scrapped after poor test screenings, features yet another "Butterfly" reference. Alex uses a knife with Dan's fingerprints to cut her throat -- in the style of Cio-Cio San -- thereby framing him for her death. As Alex draws the blade slowly across her neck, the Puccini score crescendos and the movie fades to black.
Close has stated in interviews that she preferred the original ending and that Alex is "self-destructive and tragic," not a raving psychopath. For Alex, suicide is the only option. Or, as Cio-Cio San sings, "Death with honor is better than life with dishonor."