Photos: Rui Camilo



Olga Neuwirth was born in Graz, Austria, in 1968. She studied at the Academy of Music in Vienna and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. During her time in the States she also attended an art college, where she studied painting and film. Her private teachers in composition included Adriana Hölszky, Tristan Murail and Luigi Nono. She first burst onto the international scene in 1991, at the age of 22, when two of her mini-operas with texts by Elfriede Jelinek were performed at the Wiener Festwochen, since then her artistic practice includes a multiple aesthetical experience taken from film, literature, everyday-life, visual arts, architecture and science.

In 1998 she was featured in two portrait concerts at the Salzburg Festival within the framework of the Next Generation series.

Highlights of her work include Clinamen/Nodus for Pierre Boulez and the London Symphony Orchestra (2000); collaborations with Nobel Prize winning novelist Elfriede Jelinek with whom she has created two radio plays and three operas, like the multi-media opera Bählamms Fest (1993/1998) after Leonora Carrington and Lost Highway, based on the film by David Lynch, which was premiered in 2003 and won a South Bank Show Award for the production presented by English National Opera at the Young Vic in 2008; two music-theatre works while living in NYC (2010/11) – The Outcast-Homage to Herman Melville and American Lulu, based on Alban Berg’s Lulu, which was premiered in Berlin in 2012; filmmusic for Das Vaterspiel (2009), the horror movie Ich seh ich seh (2014) and the silent movie Die Stadt ohne Juden (2017). In 2015 her orchestra piece Masaot/Clock without Hands written for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra was premiered in Cologne and Vienna and had its US premiere at Carnegie Hall 2016.

The Salzburg Festival presented Eleanor Suite for Blues Singer and ensemble with Klangforum Wien in Summer 2015 and in Autumn 2015 Le Encantadas, an 80 minute surround piece for live-electronics and ensemble for the Ensemble intercontemporain was premiered at Donaueschingen and Festival d’Automne à Paris.

Olga Neuwirth was the 2002 and 2016 Lucerne Festival’s Composer in Residence. Her percussion concerto Trurliade-Zone Zero was premiered at the festival in 2016. In Spring 2017 she realised a 3D-sound installation for Centre Pompidou’s Imprimer Le Monde exhibition. February 2018 saw the premiere in Sweden of Aello- ballet mécanomorphe for flutist Claire Chase and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, subsequently performed at the BBC Proms in London.

For over 30 years Olga Neuwirth has always raised her voice against deplorable states of social-political affairs and her works have explored a wide range of forms and genres: operas, radio-plays, sound-installations, art-works, photography and film-music. Aside from composing, she has also realised sound installations, art exhibitions and short films; one of her multi-media installations was presented at the documenta 12 in Kassel in 2007. 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 in 2010 and was awarded the Robert Schumann-Preis für Dichtung und Musik in 2021 and the prestigious Wolf Prize together with Stevie Wonder. 

Her opera Orlando after Virginia Woolf was premiered at the Vienna State Opera in December 2019, the first woman commissioned in the 150 year history of the house and was declared ’World Premiere of the Year’ by the magazine ‘Opernwelt’. Orlando will be released on DVD later this year on the label Unitel and was awarded the 2022 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition 2022 of the University of Louisville, Kentucky.       
A new work for orchestra, countertenor and children’s chorus Keyframes for a Hippogriff – in memoriam Hester Diamond was commissioned for world premiere by the New York Philharmonic in May 2020, the performance was postponed due to the outbreak of Covid-19. It was given its first performance in September 2021 by co-commissioner Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra at Musikfest Berlin conducted by Jakub Hrůša. Further co-commissioner performances will be given by BBC Proms and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra in the 2022/23 season. The orchestral piece Dreydl is co-commissioned by Orchestre National de Lyon and Staatskapelle Dresden and will premiered in May 2022 as part of her residency in Lyon.

During the Corona Pandemic she has created a cycle of diverse pieces called CoronAtion Cycle. She has been working on a new opera based on an old Manga story since 2011; the libretto was written together with American novelist Barry Gifford. 

Olga Neuwirth was appointed as a composition professor at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, Austria in Autumn 2021.