The Breakthrough

No more a child prodigy, it is time for Mozart to prove himself with Mitridate Re di Ponto

Mitridate, Re di Ponto

Theater an der Wien, Vienna 2009 Photo: Armin Bardel / Theater an der Wien
1770
Italy
Mitridate, Re di Ponto

Mitridate, Re di Ponto

Theater an der Wien, Vienna 2009 Photo: Armin Bardel / Theater an der Wien

In December 1769, father Leopold and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart set out for Italy. Their hope was to find a foothold in the high society of the nation of opera and subsequently acquire a lucrative commission. In ice and snow father and son crossed the Brenner mountain pass heading south. After several performances they arrived in Milan and, after an invitation, finally the coveted commission followed: “Mitridate, Re di Ponto” – an opera seria in three acts. The moods of Leopold and Wolfgang soared.

As soon as Wolfgang held the text in his hands, he started to compose.

A dominant father, his sons and the Roman Empire – Mitridate, Re di Ponto

The libretto is based on the eponymous play by Jean Racine. King Mitridates VI Eupator, the king of Pontus, rules the Black Sea. During a military campaign against the Romans he leaves his young fiancé, Princess Aspasia, with his sons Sifare and Farnace. Faking his death he plans to put their loyalty to the test.

Mozart’s opera is a manifestation of the extraordinary talent of young Wolfgang. He proved an unusual maturity in the characterisation of the individual dramatis personae. Some critics spot a parallel to the relationship between Wolfgang and Leopold in the way the musical genius worked with the material - especially his wish to emancipate himself from an overpowering father.

For five months Wolfgang worked on the opera. On December 26, 1770, it premiered at the opera-house in Milan and the applause took a long time to die down. The star of young Mozart had risen – nothing could stop him now…