Friday, August 07, 2009

Plot of The Letter

The opera The Letter is by Paul Moravec on a libretto by Terry Teachout after the play by W. Somerset Maugham. It fills the requirement that opera is a chick flick. You don’t get chick-flickier than an opera based on a Bette Davis movie.

This is an opera based on a movie, based on a play, based on a short story, and finally based on a real incident in Singapore.

The lover says he wants to break up with the heroine, that he has found someone new. The heroine shoots him 6 times, stopping only because she runs out of bullets. Heroine makes up a story that the lover was trying to rape her.

A letter surfaces in her handwriting arranging for a tryst with the lover. Oops. The lover’s new Chinese girlfriend is the one who discovers the letter and offers it for sale. The price is all the money they have. The idea of the letter first appeared in the play.

There are variations in the many versions of the story. In the movie the Chinese girlfriend is his wife. In the other versions she’s his mistress.

The heroine is tried for murder and acquitted. Her husband says he still loves her, but she admits she still loves the man she killed. Each version of the story seems to have a different ending. In the movie the Chinese wife kills her. In the opera she commits suicide.

The major innovation in the opera is that the tenor lover reappears in flashback at various points.

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