Olga Neuwirth was born in Graz (Austria) in 1968.
She started taking trumpet lessons at age seven. In 1986, she studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and also studied painting and film at the Art College there. In Vienna, she continued her studies at the University of Music and Performing Arts and at the Institute of Electroacoustics. She was strongly influenced by Adriana Hölszky, Tristan Murail and Luigi Nono.
In 1991, aged just 22, Olga Neuwirth gained international fame for the first time with her two short operas based on texts by Elfriede Jelinek.
In 1998, her work was featured in two portrait concerts in the “Next Generation” series at the Salzburg Festival. The following year saw the première at the Vienna Festival of her first full-length music theatre work, Bählamms Fest, with a libretto by Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek after Leonora Carrington. The set for the production was designed by the Quay Brothers.
Following the London première of her work Clinamen/Nodus, written for Pierre Boulez and the London Symphony Orchestra, the orchestra performed the piece on their world tour.
In 2002, she was composer-in-residence at the Lucerne Festival, where she programmed DJ Spooky’s remix of her music.
Neuwirth is often inspired by Anglo-American culture; one example is her music theatre work Lost Highway, premièred in 2003 and based on David Lynch‘s film by the same name. The English National Opera’s new production of the piece at the Young Vic was awarded the “South Bank Show Award” in 2009.
With her wide-ranging interest in other areas of art, she also developed various sound installations, exhibitions, theatre and film music, culminating in an invitation to documenta 12 in Kassel.
In 2012, the premières took place of two of her new works for music theatre: The Outcast based on the life and work of Herman Melville, and American Lulu, a reinterpretation of Alban Berg‘s Lulu. A new production of this piece was mounted in Bregenz, Edinburgh and London in 2013.
Masaot/Clocks without hands, written for the Vienna Philharmonic, received its world première in Cologne in May 2015 under the direction of Daniel Harding. It was also performed in Vienna and Luxembourg, and in February 2016 at Carnegie Hall under the baton of Valery Gergiev. Le Encantadas o le avventure nel mare delle meraviglie for six ensembles located around the room and (live)electronics, co-commissioned by the Ensemble Intercontemporain, Cité de la musique, Festival d‘Automne à Paris, Donaueschingen Musiktage, IRCAM, the Lucerne Festival and Vienna Konzerthaus was heard for the first time in autumn 2014 and was subsequently played in 2016 at the Holland Festival and the Lucerne Festival.
At the Salzburg Festival 2015, her Eleanor Suite for Blues singer, drum kit player and ensemble was premièred by Klangforum Wien under Sylvain Cambreling.
In 2016, Neuwirth was composer-in-residence at the Lucerne Festival for the second time; her percussion concerto (Roche commission) written for the Festival was given its world première at the Festival under the direction of Susanna Mälkki.
In 2017, her 3D sound installation in collaboration with IRCAM/Paris was inaugurated at the Centre Pompidou as part of the exhibition ‘Imprimer Le Monde’. That same year, she also collaborated with the architect Peter Zumthor and Asymptote Architects.
In addition to various concerts celebrating her 50th birthday, 2018 saw performances of her music theatre work Lost Highway directed by Yuval Sharon and of The Outcast in a video setting by Netia Jones.
Also in 2018 ‘Aello-ballet mécanomorphe’ for flautist Claire Chase and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra was heard first in Sweden and then at the BBC Proms in London.
In 2019, Olga Neuwirth was composer-in-residence at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg and Musikfest Berlin. She is working on a music theatre piece for the Théâtre du Châtelet, with libretto by Barry Gifford and Olga Neuwirth. She is currently composing a commissioned work for the New York Philharmonic, counter-tenor Andrew Watts and the Brooklyn Children‘s Choir. The world première will take place in May 2020 in New York City under the direction of John Adams.
Olga Neuwirth has received various national and international awards. In 2010 she received the Grand Austrian State Prize. She has lived in San Francisco, New York, Prague, Paris, Venice, Trieste, Vienna and Berlin. She has been a member of the Akademie der Künste Berlin since 2006 and a member of the Akademie der Künste Munich since 2013. Several of her works are available on the Kairos and col legno CD labels.