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Olga Neuwirth won the Grawemeyer Music Award: Deceptive Cadence: NPR


Olga Neuwirth

Priska Ketterer / Courtesy of the University of Louisville


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Priska Ketterer / Courtesy of the University of Louisville

Olga Neuwirth won the Grawemeyer Music Award: Deceptive Cadence: NPR

Olga Neuwirth

Priska Ketterer / Courtesy of the University of Louisville

Olga Neuwirth, a groundbreaking Austrian composer and multimedia artist known for the technical virtuosity and elemental power of her work, is the most recent recipient of one of classical music’s most prestigious and lucrative honors. On Monday, Neuwirth was announced as the recipient of the 2022 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, which includes $ 100,000. She was recognized for her opera Orlando, which had its world premiere at the Vienna State Opera in December 2019 – the first female-composed opera ever performed by this venerable company.


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Neuwirth co-wrote the opera libretto with Catherine Filloux, based on the novel of the same title by Virginia Woolf. The novel, about a young male poet from 16th century England who mysteriously transforms into a woman, deals with the fluidity of genres in a premonitory and timely manner.

“I wanted to reflect the wonderful diversity of life and evoke a subtle form of sexual attraction that cannot be categorized into just one gender,” Neuwirth said in a press release provided by the University of Louisville. “Plus, the main character refuses to be patronized and patronized, which continually happens to women with no end in sight.”

By shaping the world of sound for Orlando, Neuwirth called upon enormous forces for a multilingual score ranging from the Tudor ballad to punk rock and electronic noise. As staged in Vienna, the opera also included a brassy tour de force for transgender cabaret artist Justin Vivian Bond, billed as “the child of Orlando”.

Orlando is a huge and extremely ambitious work, “Marc Satterwhite, who heads the Grawemeyer Music Prize, said in a press release.” The multifaceted libretto and score challenges our preconceptions about gender and sex roles and test our ideas about what opera is and is not. It also seems fitting that the first female opera to be performed at the Vienna State Opera, a venue long regarded as a bastion of tradition, addresses these questions. “

The award was announced this morning by the University of Louisville, which sponsors the award. The former laureates are Pierre Boulez, John Adams, Thomas Adès and Andrew Norman. Neuwirth is the fourth composer to win the award, previously awarded to Joan Tower, Kaija Saariaho and Unsuk Chin.


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