Born in 1968 in Graz, she studied composition at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (with Elinor Armer in her class of composition and theory, 1985–86) and at Vienna’s High School of Music and Performing Arts (in Erich Urbanner’s class of composition), Institute for Composition and Electroacoustics (1987–93), and at IRCAM in Paris with Tristan Murail. She was strongly influenced by her private consultations with Adriana Hölszky and Luigi Nono. During her stay in San Francisco, she also studied painting and film at the Art College.
Her brilliant international career began in 1998 at the Salzburg Festival, where two concerts of the Next Generation series were dedicated to her works. In the following year she almost simultaneously won three prestigious awards: the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize for promising composers, Hindemith Prize of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, and Ernst Křenek Prize for her music drama Bählamms Fest, staged as part of the Vienna Festival. In 2000–1 she was a composer-in-residence at the Royal Flemish Philharmonic, and in the following year at the Lucerne Festival (together with Pierre Boulez). Since 2006 she has been a member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin.
Olga Neuwirth frequently cooperates with the most eminent living Austrian prose writer, Elfriede Jelinek. Her music has been released under the Kairos and col legno labels. She lives and works in Vienna.
Selected works (from 2000): Der Tod und das Mädchen II, ballet music for tape to words by Elfriede Jelinek (2000), The Long Rain for four soloists, four chamber ensembles and live electronics, music for Michael Kreihsl’s eponymous movie (2000), Construction in Space for four soloists, four chamber ensembles and live electronics (2000), ecstaloop for soprano, speaker, sampler and chamber ensemble (2001), locus...doublure...solus for piano and orchestra (2001), Lost Highway, opera to a libretto by Elfriede Jelinek and the composer based on a screenplay by David Lynch and Barry Gifford (2002–3, rev. 2006), ...ce qui arrive... for two chamber ensembles, samples and live electronics to words by Paul Auster (2003–4), Zefiro aleggia... nell’infinito... for bassoon and orchestra (2004), Tintarella di luna, songs for baritone and piano to words by Michelangelo Buonarotti, Giacomo Leopardi and Sappho (2005), spazio elastico for ensemble (2005), ...miramondo multiplo... for trumpet and orchestra (2006), Diagonal Symphony for ensemble and CD, music for a film by Viking Eggeling (2007), horizontal/vertikal for trumpet, trombone, electric guitar, piano, two cellos and percussion (2007), Kloing! for live pianist, Bösendorfer CEUS computer-controlled grand piano and live video (2007), “...ich möchte den Himmel mit Händen fassen...”, a radio drama (2007), Lost Highway Suite for six soloists, live electronics and ensemble (2008), un posto nell’acqua for ensemble (2009), String Quartet no. 3 “in the realms of the unreal” (2009), Addio... sognando for trumpet and 4-channel sound projection (2009), Remnants of Songs... An Amphigory for viola and orchestra (2009), L’Ève future remémorée, radio drama (2009), American Lulu, reinterpretation of Alban Berg’s opera (2006–11), The Outcast – Homage to Herman Melville, music installation / music theatre (2009–11), Kloing! and a Songplay in 9 Fits – Hommage à Klaus Nomi, music theatre (2011), Ishmaela’s White World for soprano and ensemble (2012), Masaot/Clocks Without Hands for orchestra (2013), Weariness Heals Wounds I for viola (2014), Maudite soit la guerre, film music (2014), Eleanor for female blues singer, percussion kit, ensemble and samples (2014–15), delle meraviglie for six spatially arranged ensembles, samples and live electronics (2015), Trurliade-Zone Zero, concerto for percussion and orchestra (2015–16), Trurl-Tichy-Tinkle for piano (2016), Aello – ballet mécanomorphe for flute and orchestra (2016–17), Die Stadt ohne Juden for ensemble, music for a 1924 silent film by Hans Karl Breslauer (2017), Orlando, opera to a libretto by Catherine Filloux after Virginia Woolf (2017–19), Keyframes for a Hippogriff. Musical Calligrams in memoriam Hester Diamond for alto / countertenor and orchestra (2019–20), coronAtion I–V, cycle for various performing forces (2020), Dreydl for orchestra (2021).