The Revenge Operas of Mozart

by Danny Djeljosevic

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) wrote 22 operas during his life, starting at age 12 with "Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebotes." Of these 22 operas, the idea of revenge appears in five of them, occurring in both his comedies and his more serious works.

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"Mitridate, re di Ponto" (1770)

Mozart wrote "Mitridate, re di Ponto" ("Mitridate, King of Pontus") when he was 14, but after its initial theatrical run in 1770 it did not see a revival performance until the 20th century. The story of the opera concerns the interpersonal drama taking place amidst the backdrop of Pontus' war with Rome. Thinking their father King Mitridate dead, Farnace and Sifare both pursue his would-be fiance, Aspasia, who actually prefers Sifare. Mitridate returns from battle and learns of Farnace's intentions, putting his son in jail and threatening similar revenge on Sifare. However, by the end of the opera Mitridate goes into battle against the Romans once again, patching up relationships and giving his blessing for Sifare and Aspasia's marriage before dying.

"Il Sogno di Scipione" (1772)

Mozart intended "Il Sogno di Scipione" ("The Dream of Scipione") for the Archbishop of Salzburg. However, the Archbishop died before a performance could happen, and thus the opera did not premiere until 1979. "Il Sogno di Scipione" follows the Roman general Scipione, who meets the entities Constanza (constancy) and Fortuna (fortune) in his sleep. The two beings force him to choose which one will empower him in life, and Scipione chooses Constanza. This enrages Fortuna, who exacts revenge by conjuring waves of plagues to attack Scipione.

"Idomeneo, re di Creta" (1780)

Elector Karl Theodor of Bavaria paid Mozart to write "Idomeneo, re di Creta" ("Idomeneo, King of Crete") as part of the Munich carnival. The play follows Idomeneo in the aftermath of the Trojan War, who nearly dies in a storm at sea and promises the god Neptune that if he lives, he'll kill the first person he sees once he reaches shore. However, at shore he meets his own son, Idamante. Idomeneo tries to get out of the deal, which prompts Neptune to summon a monster to attack Crete in revenge. Idamante kills the monster and agrees to become a human sacrifice to Neptune. However, Neptune decides to relent if Idomeneo steps down from the throne and Idamante becomes king.

"Le Nozze di Figaro" (1786)

Mozart based his comedy "Le Nozze di Figaro" ("The Marriage of Figaro") on a play by Pierre Beaumarchais that had been banned in France due to its class conflict subject matter. During the play, the servant Figaro concocts a plan to trick his employer, the Count, as revenge for his attempts to pursue Figaro's fiance, Susanna. However, due to a misunderstanding, Figaro later attempts to exact revenge on both Susanna and the Count, thinking they are indeed meeting behind his back.

"Don Giovanni" (1787)

Mozart's "Don Giovanni" is a comedic opera that tells the story of Don Juan, the famous fictional libertine and seducer of women. The devil-may-care Don Giovanni first invites revenge upon him when he sneaks into Donna Anna's room and seduces her, posing as her fiance. Then, when he kills Donna Anna's retribution-seeking father in a duel, she and her actual fiance team up with another jilted lover of Don Giovani to plot against him.

About the Author

Danny Djeljosevic is a freelance writer and blogger living in San Diego, Calif. He pursues a variety of interests including writing (blogs, prose, screenplays and comic books), criticism and filmmaking. Djeljosevic has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Florida.

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