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 stay in the States she also attended the San Francisco 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 were performed at the Wiener Festwochen. Ever since her works have been presented worldwide.
In 1998 she was featured in two portrait concerts at the Salzburg Festival within the framework of the Next Generation series. The following year, her music theatre work “Bählamms Fest”, with a libretto by Elfriede Jelinek after a play by Leonora Carrington in a set-design by the Brothers Quay, premiered at the Wiener Festwochen and won the Ernst Krenek prize. A year later, she wrote “Clinamen/Nodus” for Pierre Boulez and the London Symphony Orchestra.
In 2002 Olga was appointed composer-in-residence at the Lucerne Festival and let her music be remixed by DJ Spooky, which was not common at all in the so called Classical New Music-Scene at that time. With Nobel Prize winning novelist Elfriede Jelinek she has created two radio plays and three operas.
Neuwirth has often been inspired by Anglo-American culture. For instance, her music theatre “Lost Highway”, which had its world premiere in 2003, was based on David Lynch's film of the same name and won a South Bank Show Award for the production presented by English National Opera at the Young Vic in 2008. Olga Neuwirth’s works explores a wide range of forms and genres and are multi-layered and rich of colours. In many of her works since the early 1990s, she fused live-musicians, electronics and video into genre-crossing audio-visual experiences. Since Olga Neuwirth was a teenager, she has also been interested in film, literature, science, architecture and the visual arts. Aside from composing, and cause of this wide interests 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. Also a prolific writer, her diary of living in Venice/Italy was published in 2003 and a selection of her essays was published in 2008.
Aside from her operas, Olga Neuwirth’s most notable works include the ensemble piece with live-electronics “Construction in space”, the piano concerto “locus….doublure…solus…” and the trumpet concerto “…miramondo multiplo…”.
In 2012 Olga Neuwirth completed two new operas while living in NYC: “The Outcast” on Herman Melville, and “American Lulu”, a re-interpretation of Alban Berg’s “Lulu” which was also presented in a new production in Bregenz, Edinburgh and London in August/September 2013. She is currently working on two film musics and a new work for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
“Masaot/Clocks without Hands”, written for the Vienna Philharmonic, received its premiere in Cologne in May 2015 under the baton of Daniel Harding. It was also performed in Vienna and Luxembourg and in February 2016 at Carnegie Hall under the baton of Valerij Gergiev.
“Le Encantadas o le avventure nel mare delle meraviglie” for 6 ensembles and (live)electronics which is co-commissioned by Ensemble intercontemporain, Cité de la musique, Festival d'Automne à Paris, Donaueschinger Musiktage, IRCAM, Lucerne Festival and Wiener Konzerthaus was premiere in fall 2015. After a concert at Holland Festival it is presented within Festival musica in Straßbourg and Wien Modern.
Her percussion concerto was premiered under the baton of Susanna Mälkki with Victor Hanna at the Lucerne Festival 2016 where she was featured as composer in residence. Further concerts were held at Musikfest Berlin and Wien Modern.
In February 2018, her new flute concerto “Aello – ballet mecanomorphe” for the Swedish Chamber Orchestra und flutist Claire Chase was premiered. Olga is currently working on a new opera for Vienna State Opera (2019).
Beside having received numerous prizes, in 2010 she was awarded, as the first woman in Austria ever in the category of music, the Austrian State Prize. She is member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin and Munich.
Olga Neuwirth lived in San Francisco, New York, Prague, Paris, Venice, Trieste, Vienna and Berlin.
As of February 2019