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 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, the 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 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 Baa-Lambs 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) or 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 Köln 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 minutes surround piece for live-electronics and ensemble for the Ensemble Intercontemporain was premiered at Donaueschingen and Festival d’Automne Paris with further performances. Olga Neuwirth was, after 2002, again the 2016 Lucerne Festival’s Composer in Residence with multiple performances and the premiere of her percussion concerto Trurliade-Zone Zero. 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. She was awarded the Robert Schumann-Preis für Dichtung und Musik in 2021, as well as the prestigious Wolf Prize together with Stevie Wonder. In 2022 she was the recipient of the prestigious Ernst von Siemens Music Prize.