Are we all plagiarists of ourselves?

I recently saw New York City Opera’s performance of Puccini’s “American” opera, Fanciulla del West. Hard to deny the number of composers who were influenced by Puccini – Andrew Lloyd Webber famously “borrowed” a theme from this opera that features prominently in his musical, Phantom of the Opera; and the show-stopping ballad from Les Miz, “Bring Him Home”, is a nearly note-for-note transcription of the “Humming Chorus” from Madama Butterfly. I was more struck, however, by how often Puccini references himself. The number of allusions to Boheme, Tosca, and Butterfly just fascinate me. Why does he do this? Do even geniuses run out of original ideas? Is he wanting to remind his audiences (or himself?) of moments in other operas in order to elevate moments in this one? Which all makes me wonder whether or not we, in our daily lives, borrow similarly from ourselves. Do you find yourself repeating your past mistakes/successes? Is it purposeful? Should it be? Laziness? Pride? Would love to hear your thoughts on this one.  Shoot me an e-mail at allison@preformances.org