Mitridate, re di Ponto (Mithridates, King of Pontus), K. 87 (74a), is an early opera seria in three acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The libretto is by Vittorio Amedeo Cigna-Santi (it) after Giuseppe Parini’s Italian translation of Jean Racine’s play Mithridate.
Mozart wrote Mitridate while touring Italy in 1770. The musicologist Daniel E. Freeman has recently demonstrated that it was composed with close reference to the opera La Nitteti by Josef Mysliveček. The latter was the opera being prepared for production in Bologna when Mozart met Mysliveček for the first time with his father in March 1770. Mysliveček visited the Mozarts frequently in Bologna during the summer of 1770 while Wolfgang was working on Mitridate. Mozart gained expertise in composition from his older friend and also incorporated some of his musical motives into his own operatic setting. The opera was first performed at the Teatro Regio Ducal, Milan, on 26 December 1770 (at the Milan Carnival). It was a success, having been performed twenty-one times despite doubts because of Mozart’s extreme youth – he was 14 at the time. No revival took place until the 20th century. This opera features virtuoso arias for the principal roles, but only two ensemble numbers: the act 2 ending duet between Aspasia and Sifare (“Se viver non degg’io”), and the brief quintet that ends the opera, very characteristic of standard baroque opera seria where the opera ends with a short coro or tutti number.
Place: around the Crimean port of Nymphæum
Time: 63BC during the conflict between Rome and Pontus