Pontus is at war with Rome, and King Mitridate is leading a fierce campaign against them. His immediate concerns, however, are not with the battlefield, but with his domestic life. He suspects that one of his sons might be trying to betray him, and that one of them might be having an affair with Aspasia, his own betrothed. To test them and reveal the extent of the conspiracies against him, he sends a messenger ahead of him to tell Governor Arbate that he has died in battle. A day later, he returns, reveals that the message was false, and asks Arbate which of his sons has betrayed him, and which is worthy of ascending to the throne of Pontus.
In the short time between hearing that their father has died, and finding out that he is still alive, Farnace and Sifare reveal their true characters. Farnace immediately makes advances on Aspasia, despite her rejections of him. Certain that the throne will go to him, he also confirms a relationship with his allies in Rome, putting Pontus in peril of being overthrown by the Roman armies. Sifare, meanwhile, promises to protect Aspasia and give her the freedom she asks for, despite his affections for her. He tries to counsel his brother and stop his poor behavior, and he makes strong decisions for the future of the kingdom.
With this evidence related to him by Arbate, it is up to King Mitridate to make the right decision in who will succeed him. But will he be able to make such a choice from his sons, and can he relinquish his hold over Aspasia, knowing that she loves his son instead of him? Mozart’s Mitridate, rè di Ponto finds an answer to this families’ problems.
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