Göteborgs Konserthus Fire in My Mouth

Julia Wolfe's fateful oratorio Fire in my Mouth with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Santtu-Matias Rouvali conductor, women's choir from the Gothenburg Symphony Choir and children's choir.

Concert length: 1 h Scene: Stora salen
380-540 SEK Student 190-270 SEK Youth up to 29 190-270 SEK

The notes of Julia Wolfe’s acclaimed oratorio Fire in My Mouth sound fatally to the rasp of cutting scissors. In an attention-grabbing performance, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, the Gothenburg Symphony Womens’ Choir and a children’s choir effectively tell the story of the harsh conditions in a textile factory. European premiere.

American Julia Wolfe’s multimedia work is a tribute to the heroes of labor. It was met with praise at its premiere in 2019 and was called “a monumental achievement as a musical drama”. This oratorio, which is wistful but also bright, is about the brave immigrant women who stepped off the boats in New York Harbor and immediately set about building the country.

We follow them through four movements: The Immigration, The Factory, The Protest and The Fire, all of which are based on a very real event; the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911 when over one hundred young women died in America’s worst workplace accident. They were heroines, says Julia Wolfe, they had previously gone out and demonstrated against a dangerous working environment and thanks to them new laws on better working conditions and fire protection were pushed through.

“It’s a story about New York, but also about working people everywhere,” Julia Wolfe has said. “We are all human and we are here together”.


Introduction to the concert

Take a seat in the Great Hall one hour before the concert begins and learn more about the music you will soon experience! You will get the stories behind the music, knowledge of the composers and own reflections about the classical pieces. The introduction last for about 30 minutes, it is free and free seating in the hall. Warm welcome!


Julia Wolfe (b 1958) Fire in My Mouth Fire in My Mouth is based on the garment industry in New York City at the turn of the century, with a focus on the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and its aftermath. Drawing upon contemporary accounts of immigration, labor, and activism amongst the garment workers of the Lower East Side, Fire in My Mouth brings the world and words of the garment workers to the forefront. The work features 146 vocalists - a number commemorating the total who perished in the fire. For Wolfe, Fire in My Mouth was an opportunity to recast the women not as voiceless victims, but as protagonists whose actions and sacrifices had a profound effect on United States history. Wolfe writes: "I had been thinking about immigrant women in the workforce at the turn of the century. They fled their homelands to escape poverty and persecution. The garment workers arrived to these shores with sewing skills. Many of the women wound up working on these huge factory floors - hundreds of women sitting at sewing machines.Fire in my mouth tells the story of the women who persevered and endured challenging conditions, women who led the fight for reform in the workplace." The piece also incorporates elements derived from protest chants, courtroom testimonials, Yiddish and Italian folk songs, and an elegiac recitation of all 146 victims' names. Upon its premiere in New York 2019, critics noted Fire in My Mouth for its sensitivity to the subject matter, as well as its emotional impact and inventiveness.David Hajdu of The Nation called Fire in My Mouth a monumental achievement in high musical drama, among the most commandingly imaginative and emotively potent works of any kind that I've ever experienced."Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times noted that Wolfe's "choice of choral texts, mostly drawn from oral histories and speeches, shows great sensitivity." In reference to Wolfe's incorporation of folk song into the sonic factory sound of the orchestra Tommasini writes, "The way these songs are embedded in Ms. Wolfe's agitated, heaving orchestra, they seem like alternative coping mechanisms for the oppressed." Fire in My Mouth is the third in a series of compositions about the American worker. Wolfe's first, 2009's Steel Hammer, examined the folk-hero John Henry, reveling in the contradictions of over 200 different versions of his life to tell a story that transcends time and space. Her 2015 oratorio Anthracite Fields honored the workers of the Pennsylvania Anthracite coal region at a time when the industry fueled the nation. Anthracite Fields won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 2015. A 2016 recording of Anthracite Fields was also nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition.

Friday 26 January 2024: The event ends at approx. 19.00
Saturday 27 January 2024: The event ends at approx. 16.00


The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1905 and currently consists of 109 musicians. The orchestra is based in Gothenburg Concert Hall – a gem of functionalism on Götaplatsen square that has enchanted music lovers since 1935. Wilhelm Stenhammar was the orchestra’s Chief Conductor from 1907 until 1922. He gave the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra a strong Nordic profile and invited his colleagues Carl Nielsen and Jean Sibelius to collaborate with the orchestra. Under the leadership of Chief Conductor Neeme Järvi between 1982 and 2004, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra undertook a number of international tours and made a hundred or so album recordings while establishing itself as one of Europe’s foremost orchestras. In 1997 the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra received the title of the National Orchestra of Sweden. Since season 2017-2018 Santtu-Matias Rouvali is Chief Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Since season 2019-2020 Barbara Hannigan is Principal Guest Conductor. Christoph Eschenbach was also Principal Guest Conductor of Gothenburg Symphony in the years 2019-2022 – together they formed a strong three-leaf clover consisting of three completely different types of artists. We are also extremely proud to be an official partner of soprano Barbara Hannigan’s mentor initiative Equilibrium, with focus on young singers and musicians who are just beginning their careers. Sten Cranner is the orchestra’s CEO and Artistic Director, while Gustavo Dudamel holds the title of Honorary Conductor and Neeme Järvi that of Principal Conductor Emeritus. Region Västra Götaland is owner of the orchestra. The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra works regularly with conductors such as Herbert Blomstedt, Joana Carneiro, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Christian Zacharias and Anja Bihlmaier.

Since 2017, Santtu-Matias Rouvali is the chief conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. He also has a successful international career as a conductor and has been hailed by The Guardian as "the Finnish conductor tradition's senesta stortade påvning man bara muste lysna på". Since 2021, Santtu-Matias Rouvali is also the chief conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. He has toured with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and pianist Hélène Grimaud in Nordic capitals as well as with pianist Alice Sara Ott and percussionist Martin Grubinger in Germany. The years 2013-2022 Santtu-Matias Rouvali was chief conductor and artistic director of the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra in Finland. During the 2023-2024 season, Santtu-Matias Rouvali will continue to collaborate with orchestras at the top level throughout Europe and the USA, such as the BBC Proms, the New York Philharmonic and many more. He collaborates with soloists such as Leif Ove Andsnes, Arabella Steinbacher, Nemanja Radulovic, Leonidas Kavakos, Bruce Liu, Alice Sara Ott, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Vadim Gluzman, Randall Goosby and Vilde Frang. When he is not conducting, he devotes himself to farming and fishing at his farm outside Tampere.

Göteborgs Symfoniska Damkör

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Percussionist vid pukor med stockar i handen, omgiven av röd sammet.

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