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).
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