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date: 08 August 2020


  • Dale E. Monson


Libretto subject used in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its source is Roman history as related in Florus, Appian of Alexandria and others; many librettos relied on Jean Racine ’s Mithridate (1673), a work favoured by Louis XIV.

Mithridates VI, King of Pontus (called ‘the Great’, 120–63 bc), was a popular subject in 18th-century operas. His conquests of Asia and wars against Rome, and particularly his despotic cruelty and sensuality, were usually condensed into a single cataclysmic event. Two sons of Mithridates, Pharnaces and Xiphares, hearing a false report of Mithridates’ death, seek the hand of Mithridates’ proclaimed queen, Monima. Mithridates returns alive and learns of Pharnaces’ intentions towards Monima, as well as his alliance with Rome, and imprisons him. Next he discovers the mutual love between Xiphares and Monima. Pharnaces escapes and attacks with an approaching Roman army, but Xiphares rallies the king’s army, defeats his brother, and is rewarded with Monima and the kingdom. Librettos by Vanstryp (set by Porpora, ...

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