She studied at the Academy of Music in Vienna and the San Franciso 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 Holszky, 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 Bahlamms Fest, with a libretto by Elfriede Jelinek, 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.
With Nobel Prize winning novelist Elfriede Jelinek she has created two radio plays and three operas.
Her opera ‘Lost Highway,’ based on the film by David Lynch, premiered in 2003 and won a South Bank Show Award for the production presented by English National Opera at the Young Vic in 2008.
Since Olga Neuwirth was a teenager, she has also been interested in film and the visual arts. 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.
Olga Neuwirth’s works are multi-layered and multi-sensory. Some pieces also draw on the full range of effects of both electronic and orchestral instruments as well as video, which she began integrating into some of her works in the late 1980’s. The listener is struck by the immediacy of her music, which is often dramatic and expressive as she is particularly interested in emotions and how they relate to the brain and memory.
Aside from her operas, Olga Neuwirth’s most notable works include: the piano concerto ‘locus….doublure…solus…’ and the trumpet concerto ‘miramondo multiplo…’premiered by Hakan Hardenberger and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Pierre Boulez.
Many recordings of her music have been released on the Kairos label.
In 2008 she was awarded the Heidelberg Artist Prize. In 2010, as the first woman ever in the category of music, she received the Grand Austrian State Prize as well as the Louis Spohr Prize of the City of Braunschweig.
In 2012 Olga Neuwirth completed two new operas while living in NYC: ‘The Outcast’ on Hermann Melville, and ‘American Lulu’, a version of Alban Berg’s ‘Lulu’ which was premiered in Berlin and subsequently given a new production in Bregenz, Edinburgh and London in August/September 2013. She has recently completed film scores for two silent films, and is working on a major new electronic/space/ensemble piece for the Ensemble Intercontemporain and a new work for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.