Born in Graz, Austria, Olga Neuwirth attended the Vienna Academy of Music and San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and studied painting and film at San Francisco Art College. Her composition teachers included Adriana Hölszky, Tristan Murail, and Luigi Nono. She sprang to international prominence in 1991, at age 22, when two of her mini operas with texts by Nobel Prize–winner Elfriede Jelinek were performed at the Vienna Festwochen.
Highlights of her presentations worldwide include two Salzburg Festival portrait concerts (1998); her multimedia opera Baa-Lambs Fest (1993 / 1998) after Leonora Carrington; Clinamen / Nodus for Boulez and the London Symphony Orchestra (2000); serving as Lucerne Festival composer-in-residence (2002 / 2016); the World Premiere of her music-theatre work Lost Highway (2003), after David Lynch (English National Opera, 2008; South Bank Show Award); and the operas The Outcast — Homage to Herman Melville and American Lulu, based on Berg’s Lulu (2010 / 11).
Olga Neuwirth’s works have explored a range of forms and genres: operas, radio plays, sound installations, art works, photography, and film music. She often fuses live-musicians, electronics, and video into audio-visual experiences. Her numerous prizes include being the first woman to receive the Grand Austrian State Prize in the music category (2010).
Her immersive electronics / space / ensemble work Le Encantadas (2014) has received multiple performances throughout Europe. Masaot / Clocks without Hands, for the Vienna Philharmonic under and Daniel Harding, was premiered in 2015, and reprised by co-commissioner Carnegie Hall, conducted by Valery Gergiev; The Cleveland Orchestra, under Franz Welser Möst, performs it in autumn 2019.
The BBC Proms programmed Aello-ballet mecanomorphe in 2018 for Claire Chase and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra. Ms. Neuwirth’s Orlando, a new opera after Virginia Woolf, will be premiered at Vienna Staatsoper in December 2019 — she is the first woman commissioned in the house’s 150-year history.