Neuwirth: Orlando in rehearsals at Wiener Staatsoper

Neuwirth: Orlando in rehearsals at Wiener Staatsoper

Rehearsals began in October for Olga Neuwirth’s Orlando. Based on Virginia Woolf’s novel of the same name, the opera has its premiere at the Wiener Staatsoper on 8 December.

Neuwirth is the first female composer ever to receive a commission in the house’s 150-year history. With a libretto by Catherine Filloux and Olga Neuwirth, the opera is staged by Polly Graham and conducted by Matthias Pintscher – both of whom celebrate their Staatsoper debut with this production.

Orlando is Virginia Woolf’s first big literary success. Woolf is to be considered one of the most prominent classics of English modernism. The central theme of the novel is the interlocking of gender identity, love and artistic creativity. Personal and social realities are cracked in a poetic and cunning way.

Picture of rehearsals for Olga Neuwirth's Orlando
Conductor Matthias Pintscher at rehearsals

During this past summer, anticipation for Orlando reached a new peak with the announcement of an extraordinary collaboration: Rei Kawakubo, legendary fashion designer and founder of the international brand Comme des Garçons, will create the costumes for Orlando. Her subsequent shows at Paris Fashion Week served as the project’s first two “acts”, offering the audience an early peek at the production. The opera by Olga Neuwirth, “a sister rule-breaker in her field” (Vogue), represents Act III, concluding Kawakubo’s study in gender-identity “Transformation and Liberation”. Meanwhile, the Wiener Staatsoper has provided a sampling of Neuwirth’s music for the opera in a video featuring the composer, conductor Matthias Pintscher and two performers in rehearsal.

Orlando (2017-2019)

– eine fiktive musikalische Biografie –
Libretto by Catherine Filloux and Olga Neuwirth
based on Virginia 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
Duration: full length

Wiener Staatsoper commission

Further performances on 11, 14, 18 and 20 December 2019

Introductory matinée on 24 November 2019

More information

Composer's note

Ever since I was a child I have always been interested in everything, from arts to politics, sciences to human psychology. Passionate towards everything. I let myself be inspired in the same way by the small and big things that the world has to offer, by the wonderful diversity of life, and that is something that I see reflected in. The essence of this fictional biography is the love for oddities, the supernatural, deceit, virtuosity, exaltation and exaggeration. It’s also about remembrance, about a sophisticated form of sexual allure and against the restrain toward a single gender.

Picture of rehearsals for Olga Neuwirth's Orlando
Olga Neuwirth with tenor Wolfram Igor Derntl

Another important topic is also the refusal to be patronised and to be treated in a condescending way, which is something that happens over and over again to women and will keep on happening. Virginia Woolf questioned the roles of man and woman, the status of women in society and their approach to literature. My musical theatre won’t be about a theoretical proof, but about different possibilities that unfold – also musically – scene by scene.

For me Orlando and music are very similar: through the centuries the story of Orlando conveys, in the same way as (classical) music, on the one side the bittersweet pain that goes beyond words, and on the other hand the precise structures, proportions, abstraction and mathematical-scientific thinking and solace. Each life arises from a process of self-creation. As we live, we create our own world. In the same way as we do with music, or with and through Orlando.
—Olga Neuwirth

Photos: Wiener Staatsoper / Michael Pöhn