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Neuwirth, Olga

Olga Newirth
Stage works
Orchestra works
Ensemble works
Chamber music
Vocal music
Solo works


Orlando (2017-2019)
– eine fiktive musikalische Biografie –
Libretto by Catherine Filloux and Olga Neuwirth
based on Virgina Woolf
Singers: 2S.3Ms.Ct.3Bar.3B.2Act, 4Chr (male, female and children’s chorus with each 24 voices and children’s chorus with 16 voices)
Orchestra: 2.2.3.asax.2 - - 3perc - - - - 12 stage musicians
World Premiere: 08.12.2019, Vienna

Hommage à Klaus Nomi

Version 2
Chamber orchestra version (2009)
2 Fl. Cl. Bcl. 2 Tpt. 2 Tbn. 2 Perc. 2 Synth. E-Guit. Vln I. Vln II. 2 Vc. 2 Db
1. So simple; 2. Remember; 3. Can't help it; 4. Cold Song; 5. The witch; 6. Wenn ich mir was wünschen dürfte; 7. Wasting my Time; 8. You Don't Own Me; 9.Total Eclipse
Sy. 4135

Version 1
Songs for countertenor and small ensemble, compiled and arranged by Olga Neuwirth (1998)
Ct. Bcl. Tpt (Picctpt). 2 Synth. Sam. Perc. E-Guit. Vc. Db (Vc., Db. el. amplifyed).
1. So simple (after: Simple Man by Kristian Hoffmann); 2. Remember (after: Death from Dido und Aeneas by Purcell / Tate);  3. Can't help it (after: Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß... / Falling in Love again by Friedrich Holländer); 4. The witch (after: Ding Dong from: The wizard of Oz by Harold Arlen)
World Premiere: 10.8.1998, Salzburg
Duration: 40’
Sy. 3394

THE OUTCAST – Homage to Herman Melville
A musicstallation theatre with video 
Libretto by Barry Gifford and Olga Neuwirth
With monologues for Old Melville by Anna Mitgutsch
Ishmaela (high soprano), Old Melville (actor), Ahab (baritone), Father Mapple (actor), Queequeg (countertenor), Bartleby (chansonnier), Starbuck (tenor), Stubb (Buffo baritone), Pip (Boy soprano), Ship's Carpenter (actor), Boys’ Choir (24) / Men’s Choir TBarB (8. 8. 8.) 2 (Picc). 2. 2 (B, Es, BCl). 2 (CBn) / 2. 2. 2. 1. /  E-Guit. Acc. Sythnesizer / 2 Perc. / 8.8. 6. 6. 4. / electronical playback 
World Premiere: 14.11.2018, Vienna
Duration: full length
Sy. 4117

American Lulu (2006-2011)
Overall concept and new interpretation of Alban Berg’s opera Lulu by Olga Neuwirth (2006-2011) 
Music of act I and II adapted and re-orchestrated by Olga Neuwirth
Music and text for act III by Olga Neuwirth and translated into English by Catherine Kerkhoff-Saxon
Texts of act I and II adapted by Olga Neuwirth and Helga Utz using English translations by Richard Stokes and Catherine Kerkhoff-Saxon
Lulu (high soprano), Eleanor (Blues singer), Dr. Bloom (Heroic Baritone), Jimmy/Young Man (Young heroic Tenor), Painter (Lyric Tenor), Clarence (Bass). Athlete (Heroic Buffo bass), Professor/Banker (speaking part), Commissioner (Speaking part) - 1 (Picc). 0. 1. (in B, in E flat). BCl. Ssax. Asax. Barsax. 0. / 0. 2. 2 (TTbn, BTbn). 1./ 2 Perc. Jazz-Perc. / Syn. E-Guit. Sampler / 2. 2. 2. 2.2 
World Premiere:  30.09.12 / Komische Oper Berlin
Duration: full length
Sy. 4126

Bählamms Fest (1997/98)
Music theatre in thirteen pictures 
Text: Elfriede Jelinek after Leonora Carrington
Mrs. Carnis (A), Philip (Bar), Theodora (S), Elizabeth (S), Jeremy (Ct), Robert (T/Sprecher), violet (Ms/Speaker), Henry (speaker), Spinne, Fledermaus/ kleines Mädchen (2 boy’s voices)
1 (Picc, Bfl, with live-el.). 0. 1 (Basset.Hn). BCl (with live-el., D.B.Cl, childrensax). Ssax (Tsax, Bsax). 1 (D.B.n, childrenokarina). / 1 (children instr). 2 (Cl.Tr, child tr). 1. 1 (with live-el., children instr). / 2 Perc. / E-Guit (2. E-Guit). / Acc. Pno (Cel, Synth). 1 Theremin-vox / 2 vl. 1 vla (vla d’am). 2 vc (children instr). 1 (child rattle). / live-el. / Sam. / Films / videoscreen
live-electronic: IEM Graz, Peter Böhm (Vienna)
World Premiere: 19.6.1999, Vienna
Duration: full-length
Sy. 3356


Keyframes for a Hippogriff - Musical Calligrams in memoriam Hester Diamond
for countertenor, children’s choir and orchestra
2.2.3.asax.2 - - 3perc - 2synth.e-git.samp -
World Premiere: New York, 28.05.2020
Duration: 25’
Sy. 5727

Trurliade - Zone Zero (2016)
for drum kit and orchestra
World Premiere: Lucerne Festival, 27.08.2016
Duration: 33‘
Sy. 4470

Masaot/Clocks without Hands (2013/2014)
for orchestra
World Premiere: Cologne, 06.05.2015
Duration: 20‘
Sy. 4287

anaptyxis (2000)
for orchestra
Picc. 2 (Picc). 0. 3. BCl. 2. D.B.n / 4. 3. 2. BTbn. 1. / Hp. 4 Perc. / 16. 14. 12. 10. 8. (5.-8. 5-string)
World Premiere: 17.4.2000, Munich
Duration: 14’
Sy. 3479

Clinamen / Nodus (1999)
for orchestra
Cel. 5 Perc. / Strings: 16. 14. 12. 10. 8.
World Premiere: London, 26.1.2000
Duration: 15'
Sy. 3469

Photophorus (1997)
for two e-guitars and orchestra
2 E-Guit.
3 (2 Picc, Afl). 2. 2. BCl. 2. D.B.n. / 4. 4 (Cl.Tr). 4. 1. / 3 Perc. / 12. 10. 8. 8. 6.
World Premiere: 24.10.1997, Munich
Duration: 14’
Sy. 3320

Sans soleil (1994)
Distorting mirror for two ondes martenot, orchestra and live electronic
2 Ondes Martenot
3 (2 Picc, Afl). 1. 2. BCl. 1. C.Bn. / 3. 3. 3. 1. / 3 Perc. Cel (Key). / 10. 8. 6. 6. 4. / live-el.
World Premiere: 8.10.1994, Graz
Duration: 18’
Sy. 3325

ENSEMBLE WORKS (6 instruments and more)

Die Stadt ohne Juden (2017)
for amplified ensemble and tape
World Premiere: 07.11.2018, Vienna
Duration: 87‘
Aello - ballet mécanomorphe (2017)
for solo-flute, 2 muted trumpets, string ensemble, keyboard and typewriter
fl - - - 1perc - 1synth -
World Premiere: 08.02.2018, Örebro, Sweden
Duration: 18 Min.

Le Encantadas o le avventure nel mare delle meraviglie
for six distributed ensemble groups, samples and live electronics
2 fl. 2 ob. 2 cl. sax. 2 bsn. / 2 hn. 2 tpt. 2 t.-trb./b.-trb. / 2 perc. / 2 piano. e-git. / 3 vl. 2 vla. 2 vc. db.
World Premiere: Donaueschingen, 18.10.2015
Duration: 80'
Sy. 4338

for blues female singer, drum kit and ensemble
World Premiere: Salzburg, 07.08.2015
Duration: 25’
Sy. 4411

Maudite soit la guerre - A Film Music War Requiem (2014)
after the movie of the same name by Alfred Marchin (1914)
Cl. Tpt. Tbn. E-Gtr. Synth. Sampler Perc. Vln. Vla. Vc.
World Permiere: 10.11.2014, Paris
Duration: 50’
Sy. 4339

Ishmaela’s White World (2011/12)
S (high S).
Fl (Picc). Cl. Ssax (Tsax). TTbn (Trgl). Pno. Hp. Perc. Cb.
World Premiere: 16.3.2012, Karlsruhe
Duration: 11’
Sy. 4168

Hommage à Klaus Nomi
Chamber orchestra version (2009)
2 Fl. Cl. Bcl. 2 Tpt. 2 Tbn. 2 Perc. 2 Synth. E-Guit. Vln I. Vln II. 2 Vc. 2 Db
1. So simple; 2. Remember; 3. Can't help it; 4. Cold Song; 5. The witch
World Premiere: 24.07.2010; RSO Vienna, Jochen Kowalski
6. Wenn ich mir was wünschen dürfte; 7. Wasting my Time; 8. You Don't Own Me; 9.Total Eclipse
World Premiere: 24.07.2010, Vienna
Five more songs (World Premiere: Märzmusik Berlin, 7.3.2008):
5. Wenn ich mir was wünschen dürfte; 6. Wasting my Time; 7. You Don't Own Me; 8. Cold Song; 9. Total Eclipse
Sy. 4135

Construction in space (2000/2001)
for 4 soloists, 4 ensemble groups and live-electronic
Soli: BCl (D.B.Cl). Bfl. Ssax (Tsax, BrSax). T. in F
Ensemble: Fl (Picc). Ob. 2 Kl in B (2. Also in E flat). Bn. Hp in F. 2 Tpt in B (1. also small Tpt. in high B). 2 Tbn (2. with quartvalve). 2 Perc. Pno. Sampler. E-Guit (also Hawai-Guit). 2 vl. vla.. 2 vc. D.B.
World Premiere: 13.9.2001, Innsbruck
Duration: 40’
Sy. 3526

The Long Rain – a video opera with surround-screens (1999/2000)
for four soloists, four ensemble groups, live-electronic 
After a story by Ray Bradbury
Soli: BCl (D.B.Cl). Bfl. Ssax (Tsax, BrSax). Tb in F
Ensemble: Fl (Picc). Ob. 2 Kl in B (2. Also in E flat). Bn. Hp in F. 2 Tpt in B (1. also small Tpt. in high B). 2 Tbn (2. with quartvalve). 2 Perc. Pno. Sampler. E-Guit (also Hawai-Guit). 2 vl. vla.. 2 vc. Kb.
World Premiere: 19.10.2000, Graz
Duration: 45’
Sy. 3493

Suite für Theremin und ensemble aus "Bählamms Fest“ (1997-99/00)
Solo: Theremin vox; ensemble: Fl (Picc, Bfl). SSax (BrSax). Cl (Basset.Hn. in F). BCl (D.B.Cl). Bn (CBn). / Hp. Tpt. in B (small Tpt. in high B). Tbn. Tb./ 2 Perc. Pno. (Cel). E-Guit. (2. E-Guit). / 2. 0. 1. 2. 1.
World Premiere: 19.7.2000, New York
Duration: 25’
Sy. 3480

Instrumental-Inseln aus "Bählamms Fest" (1997-99/00)
for ensemble and live electronic; ensemble positioned in the center of the performance space
Fl (Picc, Bfl; with live-electronic). Cl (Cl in E flat, Basset.Hn.). BCl (D.B.Cl; with live-electronic). SSax (TSax, BrSax). Bn. (CBn, Okarina). / Hp. 2 Tr (1. Also small Tr in high B). Tbn. Tb (in F, with live-electronic). / 2 Perc. E-Guit (2. E- Guit). Acc. Pno. (Cel). / 2. 0. 1. 2. 1.
World Premiere: Vienna, 8.4.2000
Total duration: ca 40'
Sy. 3461 

Elfi und Andi (1997)
Text: Elfriede Jelinek
For speaker, e-guitar, double bass, bass clarinet, saxophone and two playback-CD’s (voice from tape: Marianne Hoppe)
World Premiere: Witten, 26.4.1997 / Duration: 33'
Sy. 3361

for ensemble in three groups and playback-CD 
Fl (Afl, Picc). BCl (Cl). Basset.Hn. Hp. Tr (Picctr). Tbn. Perc. Pno. 2 Vl. Va. 2 Vc. 
World Premiere: Berlin, 14.3.1997
Duration: 15'
Sy. 3342

for three soloists and three ensemble formations 
BCl (Cl. in B). E-Guit. Barsax (Ssax, Tsax)./ ensembles: 1. 0. 2 (BCl). 0. / 1. 1. 1. 1. / 2 Perc. Pno (Cel). / 1. 0. 1. 2. 2. (plus additional instr.)
World Premiere: 22.10.1995, Donaueschingen
Duration: 14’
Sy. 3305

LA VIE – ... ULCÉRANT(E) (1995)
for two countertenors, viola d’amore, violoncello, double bass, e-guitar and bass clarinet
Text: Georges Perec (from: ”L’ulcération” and ”La vie, mode d’emploi”)
World Premiere: 30.9.1995, Royaumont
Duration: 11’
Sy. 3306

for ensemble with audio tape 
1 (Picc, Afl). 0. 2 (2 BCl). Barsax (Tsax). 0. / 1. 1. 1. 0. / 2 Perc. / 2. 0. 0. 2. 2. / tape (8 K).
World Premiere: 9.10.1993, Graz
Duration: 17’
Sy. 3324

Aufenthalt (1992/93)
An oratorio in six parts for soprano, female and male speaker, ensemble and tape
Text: Elfriede Jelinek (from: „Raststätte oder Sie machen’s alle”)
S. T. 2 Spr (F.vx. Mst).
Cl (BCl). Barsax (Asax). TTbn (BTbn). Perc. Cel. (Pno). 2 Vc. / (all el. amp.) /
tape. video (ad lib.). / theatre version possibly
World Premiere: 24.6.1995, Stuttgart
Duration: 18’
Sy. 3304


voluta / sospeso (1999)
for basset horn, clarinet, violin, violoncello, percussion and piano
World Premiere: 19.10.1999, Munich
Duration: 14’
Sy. 3463 auras... in memoriam H.
2 Vl. perc (ad lib).
World Premiere: 22.11.1999, Munich
Duration: 12’
Sy. 3467

for string quartet
World Premiere: 23.6.1999, Munich
Duration: 5’
Sy. 3450

for saxophone quartet
World Premiere: 25.2.1998, Boston
Duration: 13’
Sy. 3392

Fondamenta II
Hommage à Joseph Brodsky for two bass clarinets and violoncello (or two bass clarinets and violoncello)
World Premiere: New York, 15.4.1998
Duration: 8’
Sy. 3484

Fondamenta (version for two bass clarinets and violoncello)
Sy. 3484

Ondate II
for two bass clarinets
World Premiere: 11.11.2001, Wellington
Duration: 7’
Sy. 3470

Pallas / Construction
for three percussionists and live-electronic
World Premiere: 20.10.1996, Vienna
Duration: 25’
Sy. 3338

Quasare / Pulsare
for violin and piano
World Premiere: 17.3.1996, Vienna
Duration: 8’
Sy. 3337

Akroate Hadal
for string quartet
World Premiere: 4.10.1995, Graz
Duration: 13’
Sy. 3307

Five Daily Miniatures
for countertenor, bass clarinet, piano, violin and violoncello
Text: Gertrude Stein
World Premiere: 10.9.1994, Royaumont
Duration: 9’
Sy. 3323

Fl (Picc). Cl (BCl). Ssax (Barsax). Tbn. live-el.
large video-projection ad lib. (also version for A-DAT-tape and effect-processor)
World Premiere: 25.2.1994, Vienna
Duration: 10’
Sy. 3326

Portrait of a composition as a young ape
for violoncello and percussion, tape; video screens 
World Premiere: 1.5.1992
Duration: 12’
Sy. 3344


Two duets from „Bählamms Fest” (2000)
Soli: 2 Ct. or S. Ct.; Ensemble: BCl. E-Guit. Pno. Ala d’am, Vc.
World Premiere: 22.3.2000, Cologne, WDR
Duration: 12’
Sy. 3460

...morphologische Fragmente...
for soprano, clarinet, violin, violoncello, piano and percussion
Text: from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s "Morphologie"
World Premiere: 26.5.1999, Frankfurt
Duration: 11’
Sy. 3446

Zwei Räthsel von W.A.WITH
for coloratura soprano, alto, viola, violoncello, six zimbels, audio tape and live electronic
Text: W. A. Mozart, Leopold Mozart
World Premiere: 11.2.1999, Venice
Duration: 5’
Sy. 3454

Hommage à Klaus Nomi
Songs for countertenor and small ensemble, compiled and arranged by Olga Neuwirth
Ct. Bcl. Tpt (Picctpt). 2 Synth. Sam. Perc. E-Guit. Vc. Db (Vc., Db. el. amplifyed).
1. So simple (after: "Simple Man" by Kristian Hoffmann);
2. Remember (after: "Death" from "Dido und Aeneas" by Purcell / Tate); 
3. Can't help it (after: „Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß..." / "Falling in Love again" by Friedrich Holländer); 
4. The witch (after: "Ding Dong" from: "The wizard of Oz" by Harold Arlen);
BCl., Tpt. in B (also in high B), perc. (1 Sp.), E-Guit. (with multi effect processor), Vc. (amp.), D.B. (amp.); 2 Synth., Sampler
World Premiere: 10.8.1998, Salzburg
Duration: 40’
Sy. 3394

Nova Mob
for six female voices (S I, II. Ms I, II. A I, II) and six cassette recorders after a text by William S. Burroughs. Alternative version for soprano, mezzo-soprano, counter tenor, tenor, baritone, bass and six cassette recorder.
World Premiere: Vienna, 26.11.1997
Duration: 13'
Sy. 3391

Nova / Minraud
for soprano with playback tape after a tape by William S. Burroughs
World Premiere: 5.7.1998, Schloß Hohenheim
Duration: 10’
Sy. 3406


Magic Flu-idity (2018)
for solo flute (and typewriter)
fl, tape (or perc)
Duration: 13 Min.
World Premiere: 01.03.2019, New York

for piano
World Premiere: Amsterdam, 28.09.2016
Duration: 10’
Sy. 4459

Weariness heals wounds I (2014)
for viola solo
WP: 06.11.2014, Paris
Duration: 11'
Sy. 4337

for piano and playback-CD
World Premiere: Vienna, 1.4.2000
Sy. 3496

for baritone saxophone
World Premiere: 17.5.2001, Zurich
Duration: 8’
Sy. 3681

Spleen II
for bass flute
World Premiere: 20.3.1999, Frankfurt/M.
Duration: 8’
Sy. 3453

for bass clarinet
World Premiere: 18.9.1994, Schwaz
Duration: 8’
Sy. 3327

For more works of Olga Neuwirth, please go to Boosey&Hawkes.


Olga Neuwirth was born in 1968 in Graz, Austria, and studied at the Vienna Academy of Music and San Francisco Conservatory of Music, as well as painting and film at San Francisco Art College. Her composition teachers included Adriana Hölszky, Tristan Murail, and Luigi Nono. She gained international prominence in 1991, at the age of 22 when two of her mini operas with texts by Nobel prize-winner Elfriede Jelinek were performed at the Vienna Festwochen. Since then her works have been presented worldwide.

Highlights include two portrait concerts at the Salzburg Festival (1998); her multi-media opera Baa-Lambs Fest (1993/1998) after Leonora Carrington; Clinamen/Nodus for Pierre Boulez and the London Symphony Orchestra (2000); composer-in-residence at the Lucerne Festival in 2002 and 2016; world première of her music-theatre work Lost Highway (2003), after David Lynch which won a South Bank Show Award (ENO at the Young Vic, 2008); and two new operas while living in New York (2010/11) – The Outcast – Homage to Herman Melville and American Lulu, based on Alban Berg’s ‘Lulu’.

For over 30 years Olga Neuwirth’s works have explored a wide range of forms and genres:  operas, radio-plays, sound-installations, artworks, photography, and film-music.  In many works, she fuses live-musicians, electronics, and video into audio-visual experiences.  Among numerous prizes, she was the first-ever woman to receive the Grand Austrian State Prize in the category of music (2010). 

Le Encantadas from 2014 is an immersive electronics/space/ensemble work receiving multiple performances throughout Europe.

Masaot/Clocks without Hands, for the Vienna Philharmonic under Daniel Harding, was premièred in 2015 in Vienna and New York at Carnegie Hall as co-commissioner, conducted by Valery Gergiev; the Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser Möst performed the work in Autumn 2019.

The BBC Proms programmed Aello-ballet mecanomorphe in August 2018 for Claire Chase and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra. Most recently her new opera Orlando after Virginia Woolf was premiered at the Vienna State Opera in December 2019. The first commission to a woman in the 150-year history of the house was named ’World Premiere of the Year’ by the magazine Opernwelt.  A new work for orchestra, countertenor, and children’s chorus ‘Keyframes for a Hippogriff – in memoriam Hester Diamond’ was commissioned for a world premiere by the New York Philharmonic in May 2020. Sadly, that performance was postponed due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

Photo: Harald Hoffmann

Olga Neuwirth: A Portrait

by Stefan Drees

“Ever since I was a child I’ve been interested in everything – from art to politics, from science to human psychology. Passionate about everything, I let myself be inspired in the same way by the small and the big things the world has to offer, by the wonderful diversity of life,” said Olga Neuwirth in early 2015 at a press conference held upon her receiving a new music theater commission for the Vienna State Opera. This statement not only reveals Neuwirth’s almost unlimited open-mindedness, but may also serve as a guideline for understanding her work which now spans nearly three decades.

A Variety of Impulses
The diversity of Olga Neuwirth’s artistic output goes back to her early and inexhaustible interest in areas outside of music, and her curiosity and readiness to push a broader notion of composing into unusual realms. At a time when it was uncommon in “contemporary classical music”, she allowed herself to be inspired by a variety of impulses from literature, art, film, comics or science, from high and low art. As a result she developed a strong interest in art genres such as installation, film, photography, and her approach, already evident in her first works from the late 1980s, to merge the spheres of popular and high culture. This stance also gave rise to her using technologies that integrated everything from low-tech instruments to live electronics. 

From the start Neuwirth pursued the idea of making that which is contemporary visible, and so she has always made a conscious effort to work with present-day artists from other fields, as her long-term collaboration with Nobel Prize laureate Elfriede Jelinek shows. Neuwirth and Jelinek first joined forces to create two mini-operas (1990); later collaborations included everything from aesthetically challenging works, such as the video oratorium Aufenthalt (1994), the radio play Todesraten (1997), the poème choréographique Der Tod und das Mädchen II (2000) to the music theater projects Bählamms Fest (1993/1997-99) and Lost Highway (2002-03), as well as the short films Die Schöpfung (2009) and Das Fallen. Die Falle (2010). In addition, Neuwirth’s interest in scientific phenomena and problems has informed her work in many ways. Exemplary in this context is her use of her own brainwave data for the short film project Composer as Mad Scientist (2007). In the work Kloing! (2006-07), Neuwirth mapped seismic data onto a computer-controlled grand piano. During the performance, a live pianist battles against this scientific data and historic piano scores by Chopin, Ravel and Liszt. Through the additional use of a live camera and pre-recorded video material, this piece becomes a music theatre-like reflection on the virtuoso and the mechanical.

A Pioneer of Music and Media

Neuwirth’s catalogue of compositions reflects her enormous versatility and the many influences she has absorbed. At present it includes numerous solo pieces, chamber music, ensemble and orchestra works, and pieces conceived to incorporate different media. Besides her compositional oeuvre, she has created performances, installations, radio plays, music for theater and sound tracks, as well as texts, photographs, experimental and animated films, not to mention her music theater projects and two books. A large number of these works, however, fell outside established genres and categories, and so were often not understood – making Neuwirth, on many levels, a pioneer and trailblazer for her generation. Her works frequently anticipated developments that have since become standard. From the start she was especially committed to fostering the acceptance of combining music and media. 

Despite some vehement institutional resistance, Neuwirth has often addressed the connection between music and images in her works. Take, for instance, the animation based on a short story by Leonora Carrington on which she collaborated with her sister Flora and which served as the basis for the composition Canon of Funny Phases (1992). It demonstrates her great fondness for comics and cartoons, which has played a decisive role until more recent works such as Kloing! Moreover, Neuwirth elaborated on the idea of media transfer long before it became fashionable, as can be seen in, for example, her compositions !?dialogues suffisants!? (1991-92) and Jardin désert (1993-94). She developed sophisticated concepts that relied on transfer from separate spaces to link acoustic and visual media with the aim of creating alternative forms of perception.

Transfer of Cinematic Techniques 
In the early 1990s, Olga Neuwirth began transferring cinematic techniques to the composing of instrumental and vocal works, and developing them in a variety of directions, as can be seen in the music theater projects Bählamms Fest (1993/1997-99), and Lost Highway (2002-03) which was based on David Lynch’s famous movie. For this reason she used a plurality of videos and video techniques such as morphing. Neuwirth not only collaborated with filmmakers and video artists – as she did with French video artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster on the project … ce qui arrive … (2003-04) – but also wrote the sound tracks for several movies. Alongside scores for silent films, such as Viking Eggeling’s abstract Symphonie Diagonal (2006) or Alfred Machin’s anti-war film Maudite soit la guerre (2014), she wrote the music for Kurt Mayer’s documentary Erik(A) (2004), and two fiction films – Michael Glawogger’s Das Vaterspiel (Kill Daddy Good Night, 2007-08), and Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s Ich seh Ich seh (Goodnight Mommy, 2014). Last but not least, Neuwirth has created a number of her own experimental essay films, including … disenchanted time … (2005) and … durch Luft und Meer … (2007). All these projects demonstrate that as an artist Olga Neuwirth has never held back or restricted herself. Moreover, she knew early on how to make use of what has become the ever more noticeably blurred line between technology and classical music.

Electronics as Integral Component 

Crucial for Neuwirth is the use of technology in her compositions, including low-tech instruments such as the Ondes Martenot (Sans Soleil, 1994) or the Theremin (Bählamms Fest), as well as the exploration of the possibilities of live electronics. In her early mini-operas, Der Wald – ein tönendes Fastfoodgericht (1989-90) and Körperliche Veränderungen (1990-91), live electronics were already an indispensable component of her artistic concept, one that eventually branched out in many directions. The Long Rain (1999) – a work originally conceived as a “spatial sound sculpture” with a 24-channel surround sound system and a corresponding video surround concept – exemplifies this development, as does Neuwirth’s most recent spatial sound project Le Encantadas (2014-15). In it she began with the idea of preserving the acoustics of the permanently closed Venetian San Lorenzo Church so as to be able to reconstruct them in a concert hall. Yet she does not regard such influences as the Other – brought to music from the outside. Rather they are integral components of her artistic concept which she uses to evolve individual musical discourses and narrations.

A Challenging Artistic Concept 
In the highly differentiated sound world of Neuwirth’s music, she has elevated fractures and cuts, adjacent and superimposed layers of heterogeneous acoustic events, as well as quotations and allusions to principles of her composing. Often these are mixed with a subtle but sharp black humor that manifests itself in unusual combinations of instrumental and electronic sounds. They are the mark of an art concept that consistently challenges society and, by frequently referencing political contents, questions the supposedly certain. Remarkable in this context is, for instance, her use of children’s instruments in the ensemble piece Vampyrotheone (1994-95), or the integration of a detuned viola d’amore in the composition La vie … ulcérant(e) (1995). Further examples include the use of electronic recordings of two bass viols and theorbos, detuned in quarter-tones to each other, in Lonicera Caprifolium (1993); or the live electronically-modified sound of glasses in Bählamms Fest. 

Music Theater

The composer has also devised similar strategies for her scenic works. At times this leads to the dissolution of the narrative line, and so makes way for a more multifaceted stage disposition. Works such as the music theater piece Lost Highway, based on the screenplay from David Lynch’s film, not only break the electronic musical mold and exhaust what was technologically possible at the time of their origin, but also interrupt the flow of the story in favor of a non-progressive arrangement of the scenes. Another example is The Outcast – A musicstallation theater with video (2009-11), based on Melville’s Moby Dick. This opera is a reflection on the work of the artist, as well as on writing and the meaning of memory. It is a plea for tolerance and draws attention to issues related to the conditions of artistic existence in an efficiency-oriented, capitalistic society.

Identity as Central Topic 
For Neuwirth, it is central to articulate her thoughts on artistic identity, especially when it comes to music theater. This topic is not only evident in works in which she concentrates on exploring the creative process itself, such as … miramondo multiplo … (2007), a sound installation that was created for the documenta 12, or the composition with video…ce qui arrive …“ (2003–04). But also in those in which the composer presents the artist’s existence in interaction with society, and identity is embedded in reflections on political interdependencies. Hence, Olga Neuwirth’s artistic endeavors often focus on complex characters, artists, or outsiders whom she portrays by mirroring social behaviors to expose how discrimination is enmeshed in complex structures. This can be seen in American Lulu (2006/2011), her re-interpretation of Alban Berg’s Lulu that investigates racial problems and structural discrimination; and in Eleanor (2014) that also revolves around these issues. A similar statement may be made about her almost life-long, varied but quite tangible interest in pop and jazz. Noteworthy here is her fascination with pop countertenor Klaus Nomi, which came to fruition in the song cycle Hommage à Klaus Nomi (1998). Later she expanded this work into a music theater piece, A Song-Play in Nine Fits (2009) 

Mechanisms of Memory
Another of Neuwirth’s concerns is also closely related to these issues: her exploration of the mechanisms of memory. A key topic since the early 1990s, it found its way into, e.g., Five Daily Miniatures (1994) and Pallas/Construction (1996). In fact the topic of memory runs through her entire oeuvre and has taken diverse forms. Significant is the orchestra piece Clinamen/Nodus (1999) – composed for strings and two micro-detuned zithers and percussion for Pierre Boulez’s 75th birthday tour. Three compositions deal with different forms of fragmented memories: the trumpet concerto … miramundo multiplo … (2006), the viola concerto Remnants of songs … an amphigory (2009) and the orchestra piece Masaot/Clocks without Hands (2013). In the latter, first performed by the Vienna Philharmonics in 2015, the composer analyzes the mechanisms of political remembering and forgetting, while relating them to the investigation of the roots of her own (artistic) identity.

In her work, Neuwirth has shown that as a woman in a field still dominated by men today, she has always been an astute observer of political circumstances. And so she continues to fight for the emancipation of art from all inner and outer constraints, and against its misappropriation and functionalization. As mentioned at the start, her thirst for knowledge and curiosity led early on to that understanding of life of which her passion “about everything” – that inspiration found in “the small and big things in the world” – is as much a part as are her constant wanderings between politics and art. 

In addition to many other prizes and distinctions, Olga Neuwirth received the Austrian Grand National Award in 2010 – the first woman to do so in the category of music. Since 2006, she has been a member of the Academy of Arts in Berlin; and since 2013, of the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich.