Orlando, Opera by O. Neuwirth
With Orlando, Olga Neuwirth crafts a modern classic especially for the Vienna State Opera, and it is based on one of the stunning works by Virginia Woolf, the standard bearer of English literary modernism – what more is there to guarantee an exquisite performance? Perhaps we should also mention that Orlando is the first ever grand opera that the Wiener Staatsoper commissions to a female composer and that the libretto is courtesy of French-American playwright Catherine Filloux. All the elements point towards a major celebration of musical theatre that you do not want to miss!
The musical mastermind behind Orlando, Olga Neuwirth has been pushing boundaries and expanding the tonal territory of modern classical music ever since her double mini-opera debut at the Wiener Festwochen in 1991 made her all the rage in town. Known for her experimental instrumentation that seamlessly combines live musicians with electronic soundscapes and sophisticated multimedia backdrops, Neuwirth is an avid explorer of new musical forms. Her keen interest in science, her vision of romance, gender and identity, and her proficiency in a multitude of forms for artistic expression make each of her works a microcosm of human creativity and sensibility.
Given Neuwirth’s credentials, Orlando seems more than a fitting subject for her. The source novel of the same name by the inimitable Virginia Woolf is a classic of epic proportions. In its fantastical narrative, the poet Orlando changes sex from male to female and goes on to live for hundreds of years, rubbing shoulders with many of English literature’s best-known authors. Through the lens of this fake biography, Woolf not only presents a coy, satirical view of literary history; she also boldly explores topics of gender identity, love and sexual attraction, and defying social norms and expectations in favour of one’s true self. These themes are quite familiar and dear to Olga Neuwirth as well, and her operatic adaptation of Orlando at the Vienna State Opera is sure to impress.