Triumph for Neuwirth’s “Le encantadas”

Triumph for Neuwirth’s “Le encantadas”

“Very magical” (FAZ), “a highlight of the festival” (NZZ), “you are dreaming away” (Stuttgarter Nachrichten), “the only piece that will surely survive this year’s festival apart from the orchestra award winner” (BR) – Olga Neuwirth’s latest composition was premiered by Ensemble intercontemporain and Matthias Pintscher at the Donaueschinger Musiktagen to great critical acclaim. The French premiere was performed three days later on October 21 at Philharmonie de Paris. In 2016, performances in Vienna and at the Lucerne Festival will follow. Olga Neuwirth, says Le Monde, “remains an iconoclast in contemporary music.” Find out more about the piece on our website.

The work has been commissioned by Donaueschinger Musiktage, Ensemble intercontemporain, Ircam, Wien Modern and Lucerne Festiaval. It is dedicated to Armin Köhler, the former artistic director of Donaueschinger Musiktage, who passed away in 2014.


FAZ (October 20, 2015)
„The virtuosity of the sensuality becomes opulent in Olga Neuwirth’s music. (…) There is an overlay of movement and stagnation, of social, historical, geographical and stylistic places, of imagination, memory and association – this is very magical.”

Neue Züricher Zeitung (October 21, 2015)
„In Olga Neuwirth’s composition Le encantadas o le avventure nel mare delle meraviglie you can experience how important a vivid musical communication is. The work which lasts over an hour was a highlight of the festival; next year, the Swiss premiere will be performed at the Lucerne Festival. The sounds of the Ensemble Intercontemporain are connected with live electronics in a most subtle way, in a breathing, spatial sound, projecting the virtual acoustic aura of Venice, which plays a central role here.”

BR-Klassik (October 19, 2015)
The only piece that will surely survive this year’s festival apart from the orchestra award winner comes from the Austrian Olga Neuwirth. For Le encantadas she drew inspiration from a novel by Herman Melville and the acoustics of a Venetian church. The audience is surrounded by six groups of musicians. The result is a journey of sound, an 80-minute road movie for the ear on a constantly changing ground. This is music that says a lot without being chatty.”

ZEIT (October 22, 2015)
Olga Neuwirth’s composition is “something like a fantasy on Venice and the voices of Luigi Nono and Herman Melville (…). Six sound islands generate spaces of entire churches. (…) Just when the listener feels cradled and comfortable, the composer consequently changes the character of the music just when the listener feels somewhat warm and comfortable. At one point the surround system plays a simple and beautiful all-American song, and one almost has the feeling to see Armin Köhler grinning – he always enjoyed when artists left their niche. In our conversation, Gottstein was amazed because he never would have thought that ‘the atmosphere could become something entirely different’. He also said that he would like to hear the piece again immediately. But sometimes even the artistic director of the Donaueschingen festival can’t make wishes like this come true.”

Stuttgarter Nachrichten (October 20, 2015)
“In Le Encantadas the Austrian Olga Neuwirth not only created an overwhelming cathedral echo in the venue. She also captivated her audience for over 70 minutes with a great variety of constantly changing sounds strongly supported by electronics. Waves, echoes, seagulls and voices carry you away to Venice, you are dreaming away.”

nmz (11/2015)
„Neuwirth’s exploration of space and sound are not minimalistic in any way, they are rather almost programmatic, illusionary and descriptive. This long work seemed amazingly short. (…) The inevitable question remains: what is the impact of Donaueschingen? The works by Mark Andre and Olga Neuwirth without question.”

Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung (October 18, 2015)
„With Olga Neuwirth everything becomes different – and better. She sets a highlight at the Donaueschinger Musiktage 2015.” Olga Neuwirth Encantadas


In 2012, Olga Neuwirth was already following in Herman Melville’s footsteps with her work The Outcast – musicstallation-theater with video. Le Encantadas o le avventure nel mare delle meraviglie comes to us from “the enchanted isles” – the Galapagos Islands – that Mellville described in ten short philosophical ‘sketches’ published in 1854. Here, the desolate volcanic soil of the islands leads to a meditation on turtles, solitude, the power of nature, the ocean’s never-ending horizon, the archipelago’s discovery, the cruel, desperate lives of those who chose to live there… Melville was the first to remark that there was no chance of expansion or escape, and so, no chance of an American Utopia. As such, the work attempts to replace the real space with a dynamic environment, a “hyper-architecture of desire”.

The journey for an unfathomable sea took Neuwirth to Venice where she then lived for a number of years. True, the dialogue between the lagoon and the architecture can be heard in Saint Mark’s – the acoustics of which have inspired many composers since the time of Gabrieli and Monteverdi. And yet, between the Basilica and the Arsenal lies Chiesa San Lorenzo, centre of music during the Renaissance connected to the Benedictine monastery where Marco Polo is buried. Here, Luigi Nono premiered Prometeo in 1984. For the event, Renzo Piano built a wooden ark where the audience was seated. However, due to poor maintenance, public authorities were forced to close the building off to the public. Olga Neuwirth, having attended Prometeo, visited the church in 1997 and more recently again. She is fascinated by the space, the clear reverberations, the hushed sounds, the low rumbles, the creaking, and the cries that come from outside, “like a boat at sea”. And she considered to preserve the very acoustic recreated on stage using electronics.

The world of Encantadas is labyrinthine – an archipelago – where music fills in the cracks and gaps of virtual space. “An ‘ark of dreams’ travelling through space and time, from one island to the next, over rough seas”. Why? “It’s not a coincidence that Thomas Moore’s utopia was on an island, surrounded by sea. It was the quintessence of isolation and cutting of all ties. A place, the indeed exists, but one that no one knows about – it has not yet been discovered and is on no map” (O. N.)

(published with the kind permission of Festival d'Automne à Paris,

Photos: Luc Hossepied, Ensemble intercontemporain