The text version of von Chézy's original play, in four acts, as premiered with Schubert's music, is lost. However, a later modified version of the play, in five acts, was discovered in the State Library of Württemberg, and was published in 1996. Fragmentary autograph sources relating to the first version of the play have been recovered too.
The story concerns the attempt of Rosamunde, who was brought up incognito as a shepherdess by the mariner's widow Axa, to reclaim her throne. The long-established governor Fulgentius (Fulvio in the revised version), who already has Rosamunde's parents on his conscience, attempts to thwart Rosamunde, initially by intrigue, then by a marriage proposal and finally by an attempt at poisoning. Rosamunde, whose claim is backed by a deed in her father's hand, enjoys the support of Cypriots and the Cretan Prince Alfonso, her intended husband. Finally, all the attempts of Fulgentius fail; he dies by his own poison, and Rosamunde ascends the throne.
There are two overtures associated with Rosamunde:
The overture used for the stage production was the overture Schubert had originally composed for Alfonso und Estrella, but Schubert thought it less suitable for that opera.
The first publication that linked the overture of Die Zauberharfe (The Magic Harp) with the Rosamunde incidental music was a 1855 publication of the score parts of that overture, indicating it as overture to the drama Rosamunde. There is however no proof it was ever Schubert's intention to associate that overture with the rest of the Rosamunde music.
The ten numbers of the Rosamunde incidental music, D 797, are:
Entr'acte No. 1, in B minor (Allegro molto moderato), which may have been originally intended as the finale to Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony.
Ballet music No. 1, really two pieces in one. The first is a march in B minor (Allegro moderato) beginning with a modified version of the opening theme of the first entr'acte. Like the entr'acte, this ends in B major. A bridge passage leads to a lyrical piece in G major bearing the tempo marking of Andante un poco assai.
a. Entr'acte No. 2 in D major (Andante), the outer sections of which have the same thematic material as those of No. 5, the "Chorus of Spirits." The central sections of both, though different, are in a similar mood.
b. Romanze, "Der Vollmond Strahlt auf Bergeshöh'n" (The Full Moon Shines on the Mountain Height) (Andante con moto) in F minor and major for alto and orchestra.
Geisterchor (Chorus of Spirits), "In der Tiefe wohnt das Licht" (In the Deep Dwells the Light) in D major (Adagio), accompanying the brewing of the poison.
No. 3b was published in 1824 as Op. 26, in a version with piano accompaniment. Nos. 8, 4 and 7 were possibly first published in the same series. Other publications with one or more numbers followed. By 1867 all numbers except 3a and 6 had been published in one or more versions.
George Grove and Arthur Sullivan rediscovered the original manuscript parts of the music when they visited Vienna in 1867 specifically to research Schubert. Grove wrote: "I found, at the bottom of the cupboard, and in its farthest corner, a bundle of music-books two feet high, carefully tied round, and black with the undisturbed dust of nearly half-a-century. … These were the part-books of the whole of the music in Rosamunde, tied up after the second performance in December, 1823, and probably never disturbed since. Dr. Schneider [the curator] must have been amused at our excitement; but let us hope that he recollected his own days of rapture; at any rate, he kindly overlooked it, and gave us permission to take away with us and copy what we wanted."
It was not until Series XV, Volume 4 of the Breitkopf & HärtelGesammtausgabe was published in 1891 that all the numbers of the incidental music were joined in one publication, with the full orchestration.
(German) Gerrit Waidelich (ed.) Rosamunde: Drama in fünf Akten von Helmina von Chézy — Musik von Franz Schubert. In IFSI (Ernst Hilmar ed.) Volume 12. Tutzing 1996. (First edition of the revised version - Published with an epilogue and some unidentified sources)
(German) Gerrit Waidelich. "Ein fragmentarischer autographer Entwurf zur Erstfassung von Chézys Schauspiel Rosamunde". in: IFSI, Mitteilungen 18, Tutzing 1997, pp. 46–57.
(German) Gerrit Waidelich. Die vermeintlich verschollene Rosamunde. Zur Quellenlage von Helmina von Chézys Schauspiel und Franz Schuberts dazugehöriger Schauspielmusik (Teil 1), in: Sullivan-Journal. Magazin der Deutschen Sullivan-Gesellschaft e. V. (Hrsg. von Meinhard Saremba) – Nr. 11 (Juni 2014), S. 63-72. ISSN 2190-0647.
(German) Gerrit Waidelich. „nicht das Verdienst der im J. 867 nach Wien gekommenen Englishmen“? – Legenden und Tatsachen zu Sullivans und Groves Sichtung des „staubigen“ Aufführungsmaterials von Schuberts Rosamunde-Musik (Teil II), in: Sullivan-Journal. Magazin der Deutschen Sullivan-Gesellschaft e. V. – Nr. 13 (Juli 2015), S. 18-32. ISSN 2190-0647.