Genre-Blurring, Politically Charged Opera Wins Best New music Prize

“Orlando,” the Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth’s unruly and openly political opera adaptation of the Virginia Woolf novel, which made heritage as the 1st perform by a lady to be presented by the Vienna Point out Opera, has gained the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Tunes Composition.

When she acquired the news — declared on Monday by the University of Louisville, which administers the award — Neuwirth, 53, was on the mobile phone with somebody else and did not know how to answer to a mysterious connect with. “I really do not know any one from Louisville,” she claimed in a video clip job interview. “I didn’t assume this at all.”

It was definitely a surprise in part because the award — which comes with $100,000 and a put together with luminaries together with Kaija Saariaho, Pierre Boulez and Gyorgy Kurtag — is for 2022, and “Orlando” premiered two yrs back. Regardless of a DVD release of the production coming out this month, it was, Neuwirth reported, “not on my mind any longer.”

The get the job done — a subversive blurring of style, time and politics reflecting on how tiny has transformed more than the hundreds of years, however how significantly modify is feasible — jolted the normally conservative Vienna State Opera. It is also something of a milestone for the Grawemeyer, which considering the fact that its inaugural award in 1985 has been specified to only three other females prior to Neuwirth (an issue Andrew Norman known as attention to when he received the 2017 prize).

“‘Orlando’ is an tremendous, supremely formidable get the job done,” Marc Satterwhite, the award’s director, explained in a statement. “The libretto and multifaceted rating obstacle our preconceptions of gender and sexual roles and take a look at our tips of what opera is and is not.”

Woolf’s novel, a fantastical parody of biographies, follows its without end-youthful protagonist by means of the generations: from Orlando’s years as a preferred of Elizabeth I to the book’s publication in 1928. Showing up initial as a titled guy, the character instantly becomes a lady — who later faces a comparatively aggravating lifestyle on the other side of gender politics. Sally Potter adapted the tale into a wry and dreamy 1992 movie, starring Tilda Swinton, that carried Orlando’s story into the late 20th century.

Neuwirth’s opera goes one more action more, using the plot to the present — a globe dealing with local weather disaster, the rise of nationalism and the persistence of the patriarchy — and searching toward a much better upcoming. “It’s not kitschy, but in a way it’s hopeful,” she claimed in the job interview. “And we need to maintain that in our hearts. Usually despise will fill it up more and much more. We are all distinct, but just by listening to just about every other we can check out to create a distinctive entire world.”

Her “Orlando” handles several hundred years over a few several hours, with a rating of effortlessly fleeting stylistic shifts and disorientingly fuzzy instrumental distinctions — what Neuwirth has described as a kind of androgyny in seem. “I believe it is definitely my grand piece,” she claimed. “I’m in this enterprise now for 35 decades, and this introduced almost everything alongside one another.”

Neuwirth analyzed at the University of Music and Carrying out Arts in Vienna, then at the San Francisco Conservatory of Songs and the San Francisco Artwork Institute. She described her time in the United States as formative amid open-minded artistic good friends and relaxed acquaintance with the chess legend Bobby Fischer, she imagined about songs in a far more inclusive, genre-embracing way.

“Orlando” followed other phase performs, together with a harrowing 2003 adaptation of David Lynch’s film “Lost Highway.” It starred the mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey and featured artists from outside the house opera — among them the cabaret legend Justin Vivian Bond as Orlando’s boy or girl and the trend designer Rei Kawakubo, who did the costumes.

However in bringing the creation to life at the Vienna State Opera, Neuwirth explained, “I had a large amount of fights.” The business gave it a operate of only 5 performances, and a revival is at the moment not envisioned. “Orlando” may possibly have been a breakthrough for the dwelling, but the actuality that it arrived and went, she included, “is a indication that the process has not improved.”

Neuwirth has recently faced other setbacks. Her upcoming opera, “Manga for Enthusiasts” — whose team contains the “Lost Highway” screenwriter Barry Gifford, the revolutionary director Yuval Sharon and the soprano Julia Bullock — experienced been planned for the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris next slide, but was canceled, with no new opening in sight. “Keyframes for a Hippogriff,” her commission for the New York Philharmonic’s Job 19 series to commemorate the 19th Modification, was meant to premiere in June 2020 but continues to be delayed by the pandemic because the piece calls for a children’s choir. (It was instead initial presented by the Berlin Philharmonic in September.)

“I however consider there are so numerous gifted composers out there, it feels like Russian roulette, in a favourable way,” Neuwirth stated of the Grawemeyer news, which follows her successful the Wolf Prize in Music before this year. “But following every little thing, and the total tale with ‘Orlando,’ it is a genuinely superb indication to continue to keep likely.”