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. Olga Neuwirth is professor for composition at the University of music and performing arts Vienna.
Olga Neuwirth’s works explore 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). Further awards include the Deutscher Musikautorenpreis (2017, "Komposition Orchester"), Robert Schumann Prize for Poetry and Music (2020), Wolf Prize in Arts Laureate in Music 2021, Opus Klassik: composer of the year 2021. In 2022, she received the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for her opera Orlando.
Highlights include two portrait concerts at the Salzburg Festival (1998); her multi-media opera Bählamms 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 premiere 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
Her most recent opera Orlando
after Virginia Woolf was premiered at the Vienna State Opera in 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.
from 2014 is an immersive electronics/space/ensemble work receiving multiple performances throughout Europe. The BBC Proms programmed Aello - ballet mecanomorphe
in August 2018 for Claire Chase and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra.
Masaot/Clocks without Hands
, for the Vienna Philharmonic under Daniel Harding, was premiered in 2015 in Vienna and New York at Carnegie Hall as co-commissioner; now this work is one of her most performed works and part of many programs.
Her most recent work for orchestra, countertenor, and children’s chorus Keyframes for a Hippogriff – in memoriam Hester Diamond
was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and world premiered at Musikfest Berlin by the Berlin Philharmonic.
Neuwirth is a member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, the Academy of Arts (Berlin) and the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.
Works composed after May 2021 are published by Boosey & Hawkes.
Photo: Harald Hoffmann