Mitridate, rè di Ponto - Synopsis

Mitridate, rè di Ponto: Anja-Nina Bahrmann Mitridate, rè di Ponto: Barry Banks (Mitridate) Mitridate, rè di Ponto: Ensemble

Mitridate, rè di Ponto

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Vittorio Amadeo Cigna-Santi after a translation of the tragedy by Jean Racine by Abbate Giuseppe Parini


Act One

Sifare, like his brother Farnace, has come to Ninfea – against the express wish of their father, Mitridate, the king of Pontus – because he believes that his father has been killed in a battle against the Romans. He wants to make sure that he gets his share of the power and in this he has the support of Arbate, his father’s ally. Sifare admits to Arbate that he, like his brother, has fallen in love with Aspasia, who is engaged to their father.

For her part, Aspasia asks Sifare to help her in rejecting the advances of  Farnace, and he promises to do so. At the same time he tells her that he also loves her but does not want to win her over by force. He would rather give her up.

When Farnace again urges his affections on Aspasia, Sifare goes to her aid. But Arbate brings the surprising news that Mitridate has not been killed in battle after all; he will shortly be returning to Ninfea. As Aspasia knows that Mitridate expects complete and utter loyalty from his sons and his subjects she is worried for Sifare. But he wants to prove that he is an obedient son and and postpones tackling his conflict with his brother till later.
Farnace, on the other hand, rebels against his father. He hopes that a Roman ally, Marzio, will support him by contacting the powerful men he knows in Rome.

Mitridate returns to Ninfea accompanied by Ismene, a princess who is engaged to Farnace. He has indeed lost the battle against the Romans but still claims the power in his own country and therefore accuses his sons of having left their positions against his orders. Ismene is amazed and worried by the uncaring attitude of her fiancé.

Mitridate is also suspicious of both his sons. This is the reason why he spread the rumour of his own death. Arbate manages, however, to cast  suspicion on Farnace who, he says, has promised to marry Aspasia and rule in Pontus with her at his side. Mitridate, who sees in Farnace a dangerous rival for Aspasia’s affections, wants to be rid of his hated son.


Act Two

Ismene takes Farnace to task and he admits that he has been unfaithful but does not want to raise false hopes. Ismene threatens revenge but he is prepared to accept the consequences. Mitridate plans to condemn Farnace to death and have Ismene marry Sifare.

Aspasia admits to Mitridate that although she will not resist marriage with him she cannot love him. Mitridate is angry at this and orders his son Sifare to take his side against Aspasia and try to make her see sense.

Sifare is all the more astonished when Aspasia admits that she is in love with him. Since, however, she does not wish to come between father and son she would rather give him up than cause his father pain. Sifare decides to leave Ninfea as soon as possible and seek his fortune far away from his father and the woman he loves. Aspasia, on the other hand, realises how hopeless her situation is.

Mitridate is afraid that Farnace might not just be his rival for Aspasia’s affections but that he might also be collaborating with the Roman enemy. He therefore decides to test his sons yet again. He tells them that he plans to attack the Romans again. Farnace is to fight the Romans in Asia, he himself, however, will march against the Capitol in Rome. Sifare begs to be allowed to lead the soldiers into battle in Asia – Farnace, on the other hand, thinks it would be better to secure the lands which are still part of the Empire and accept  the Romans‘ offer of peace. Mitridate sees this as proof of Farnace’s disloyalty, this impression being strengthened by  his son‘s friendship with Marzio. Ismene tries to reassure Mitridate, saying he cannot prevent his children from rebelling against him.

Farnace retorts angrily that Sifare is actually Mitridate’s rival as he has not only desired Aspasia but also had his affection returned. The king arrests Farnace and condemns him to death.

Mitridate tells Aspasia that he will renounce her hand in favour of one of his sons. She thereupon admits that she is in love with Sifare and hopes that the king will show understanding since they have never betrayed him. Mitridate, however, is horrified and wants revenge. In order to escape his anger, Aspasia and Sifare see suicide as the only way out of their dreadful situation.


Act Three

Arbate brings Mitridate the news that the Roman enemy is suddenly advancing on the town. Mitridate leaves to take up the fight. Before he leaves he gives orders that his second son, Sifare, should also be killed.

Aspasia plans to poison herself but Sifare, who has been released by Ismene, manages to prevent her from doing so at the last minute. As he can see no way of gaining Aspasia as his wife he prefers to seek death as a faithful son and follows Mitridate into battle.

Marzio frees Farnace from prison in order to encourage him to side with the Romans in the battle against Mitridate.But Farnace realises that he will never be able to win Aspasia’s love and decides to stay loyal to his father.

Mitridate is forced to capitulate in the face of the Romans‘ superior forces. In order not to be taken alive into captivity he has wounded himself mortally with his own sword. He forgives Sifare and hopes that he will find happiness with Aspasia. Sifare now wants to take revenge on his brother Farnace for the death of their father, but Ismene explains what Farnace has actually done. He merely pretended to turn to the Romans in friendship and thus managed to cause an horrendous bloodbath from within. The dying Mitridate forgives both his sons, who swear to continue with the struggle against the Romans.