Concerning the initially complicated musical history of Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter’s opera Die Geisterinsel: Ein Singspiel in drei Akten, see Rudolf Schlösser, Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter, 300–301 (see also Thomas Bauman, North German Opera in the Age of Goethe [Cambridge 1985], 310–22); the following from Schlösser:
There was considerable trouble both during the writer’s lifetime and after his death with regard to the musical composition for this piece. According to Schlichtegroll [Literarischer Nachlass von Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter. Mit des Verfassers Biographie und seinem Bildnisse, ed. Friedrich von Schlichtegroll (Gotha 1802) xlii], the original plan of having Mozart do the composition was thwarted by the latter’s death, though even earlier, on 7 April 1791, Beck had advised against that plan in any case, since Mozart was unlikely to take a commission to compose music for a German subject. He suggested Dittersdorf instead, to whom the opera was indeed sent; but in 1794 Dittersdorf had already had the opera for two years without reporting back concerning its status and even without responding to several letters. Einsiedel then suggested a Viennese composer to Gotter, but this plan, too, came to nothing. Finally, in 1795 and similarly at Einsiedel’s behest, Himmel in Berlin and Fleischmann in Meiningen were the two most promising candidates. It seems that both were to provide a sample composition of the first act.
A contract was finally made with Fleischmann, though that, too, led to disagreements when the text appeared in Die Horen without his consent; Schiller thus had to add a footnote emphasizing Fleischmann’s sole rights to the libretto, but in vain, since hardly had Die Geisterinsel been published than two additional composers seized on it, namely, Zumsteeg and Reichardt.
According to Caroline’s correspondence [Caroline to Luise Gotter on 1 November 1797 (letter 189)], it seems that Fleischmann’s composition was performed in 1792 [1797?] in Frankfurt, and Caroline also related to Luise Gotter that Corona Schröter was not satisfied with Fleischmann’s music [to Luise Gotter on 1 November 1797 (letter189)]. Iffland, too, who acquired it for the Berlin theater in 1798, declared the music second-rate [Caroline to Luise Gotter 2 May 1798 (letter 200)], and in its stead had Reichardt’s composition performed on 6 July 1798 at the homage celebration [for the new king, Friedrich Wilhelm III], which was then repeated at least three times by August of that year. It is in this particular adaptation that Die Geisterinsel seems to have been most successful, since it was Reichardt’s most frequently performed piece. It was likely also Reichardt’s composition that was performed from 1803 in Hamburg and after 1808 also in Leipzig.
Here the first page of the opening overture along with Miranda’s opening scene in Reichardt’s score (Die Geister-Insel ein Singspiel in 3 Akten von J.F. [sic] Gotter nach Shakespear’s Sturm . . . In Musik gesetzt von Joh. Friedrich Reichardt [Berlin 1798]):
Translation © 2011 Doug Stott