Vienna State Opera’s first opera by a woman: Olga Neuwirth’s gender-fluid “Orlando”

Posted on: November 27, 2019

“In all its 150 years, the Vienna State Opera has never staged an opera written by a woman,” writes Shaun Walker in Sunday’s (11/24) Guardian (U.K.). “That will change next month, with the premiere of Olga Neuwirth’s operatic version of Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando: A Biography. ‘I really want to shake up this old-fashioned, beautiful, wonderful place a bit,’ said Neuwirth…. Orlando … has been called the first English-language trans novel due to its playful exploration of gender fluidity…. Orlando begins Woolf’s novel as a young man in Elizabethan England, and ends it as a 36-year-old woman in 1928…. In Neuwirth’s 19-scene opera, the action will continue until the present day…. The role of Orlando’s child will be played by the transgender American cabaret artist Justin Vivian Bond, alongside a cast of classically trained opera singers…. All the key roles in creating Orlando were filled by women: Neuwirth wrote the libretto together with the playwright Catherine Filloux, the British director Polly Graham is in charge of staging the production, and performances will feature costumes designed by Rei Kawakubo…. The Vienna State Opera orchestra shares the pit with an electric guitar and two synthesizers … with some singers placed inside the opera house’s giant chandelier.”

Posted November 27, 2019

Photo of Olga Neuwirth by Harald Hoffmann