A newly discovered stage work by Beethoven's Kapellmeister Andrea Luchesi (a ballet/pantomine) entitled 'Arlequin Deserteur' (written around 1780 in Bonn) is being gradually made available online at ItalianOPERA.org over the next few weeks. It has a remarkable story. (Some of it has literally been pieced together only in the last day or two).

First, the work is specifically refered to in the surviving 1784 Inventory at Bonn chapel. The orchestral parts are today at Modena. But there's a remarkable link between it and a childhood event of the young Beethoven.

Secondly, Luchesi's work consists of little more than a series of very short musical interludes (more than a dozen) and is almost certainly based on a play first written in the late 1760's by Louis Sebastian Mercier. That play was first adapted in Paris in 1768/9 by the French librettist Sedaine for a 3 act comic opera by Montigny 'Le Deseurter' which was premiered at the Italian Opera in Paris in the summer of 1769. That opera buffa was well received and the following year it was translated and performed in Germany in at least two cities.

In fact Montigny's opera became famous right across Europe. Remarkably, Montigny's overture to this opera 'Le Deserteur' was the theme played by carillon bells of the mechanical clock in the tower at the Electoral Palace in Bonn. Until 1777 at least. But in that year (15th January 1777 at around 3am) a large fire broke out in the western section of the Elector's Palace. A gunpowder store blew up and Bonn citizens were all awakened by the explosion and resulting fire. 'They rushed out to the streets horrified, a seething, distracted mass of people, who congested all the streets in efforts to save their homes and see what was happening. The Elector, Max Friedrich, scantily clothed, narrowly escaped with his life but wild rumours spread everywhere. The boy Beethoven must surely have experienced this event. Reports say that as time went on the fire raged even more fiercely. Sparks from this fire were to be a threat to the town for 5 days. Much damage was done to the palace and there was loss of life. Just 3 hours after the fire began the tall clock tower with its fine carillon came crashing down just as its bells were starting to play Monsigny’s overture to ‘Deserteur'.

(See article, ‘What makes a great Composer ?– Beethoven’ – Dr David CF Wright 1967)

Also, some fascinating information today from archives of the British Library where this specific work is refered to -

''BUSTIS, Vincent de (also called ‘Revaschiello’) - ‘Arlequin deserteur – devenu magician, ou le Docteur mari ideal’, ballet/pantomime etc. ('Arlequin der Ausreisser', etc). French and German – BONN - 1780 ? - Archive Reference – (11740.aa.9.(1.) ''

Repair of the carillon bells and the tower at Bonn (which is known to have taken several years) corresponds exactly with Luchesi's writing 'Arlequin Deserteur'. So a date of 1780 for that work seems exactly right. It may even have justified writing the piece.

Nothing more is known of 'Vincent de Bustis' (also called 'Revaschiello'). Perhaps he was an Italian who worked with Luchesi in Bonn ?

Mercier's original stage play 'Le Deserteur' was published in Paris in 1782. It has 3 acts and a total of 15 scenes. In the next few weeks it should be possible to see how many short musical interludes Luchesi used for his Bonn ballet/pantomine 'Arlequin Deserteur' and whether they correspond closely to the play from which the story was originally derived.

A single, short instrumental episode from this work by Luchesi can now be heard on ItalianOPERA.org - It is quite dramatic.

Beethoven must surely have heard this work.