Julia Wolfe’s Fire in my mouth
for orchestra and choir
“Fire in my mouth is a monumental achievement in high musical drama, among the most commandingly imaginative and emotively potent works of any kind that I’ve ever experienced… Wolfe has restored [the garment workers’] voices, recasting their narrative as one of a defiant call for a better life.” –The Nation
Fire in my mouth continues composer Julia Wolfe’s musical investigations into American labor history with a libretto that explores the world of the women who worked in New York City’s garment industry in the early 20th century and a focus on the tragic 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and its aftermath. On March 25, 1911, fire consumed the factory, which occupied the top floors of a building that still stands at 23-29 Washington Place, now part of the campus of New York University, where Wolfe teaches. 146 workers perished from fire, smoke, or jumping out of the windows. Most of them were young immigrant women. “I had been thinking about immigrant women in the workforce at the turn of the century,” Wolfe writes. “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.” A visually stunning large-scale work for orchestra and women’s chorus directed by Anne Kauffman with scenic, lighting, and video design by Jeff Sugg, Fire in my mouth follows the story of these women who rose up to demand a more human existence, who persevered and endured challenging conditions, women who led the fight for reform in the workplace. This piece is dedicated to their memory.
Julia Wolfe, Fire in my mouth (2018)
ANNE KAUFFMAN, Director
JEFF SUGG, Scenic, Lighting, Video, and Production Designer
MARK GREY, Sound Designer
MÁRION TALÁN, Costume Designer
KENNY SAVELSON, Project Manager
MOLLY HOULAHAN, Associate Director
JASON KAISER, Stage Manager
NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC | Jaap Van Zweden, Conductor and Music Director
THE CROSSING | Donald Nally, Artistic Director
YOUNG PEOPLE’S CHORUS OF NEW YORK CITY | Francisco J. Núñez, Director
Commissioned from the New York Philharmonic, Jaap van Zweden, Music Director; Cal Performances at the University of California, Berkeley; Krannert Center for the Performing Arts / University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign; and the University Musical Society of the University of Michigan; with the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and of Linda and Stuart Nelson.
Fire in my mouth audio is available for streaming on Julia’s webpage
Commercial recording of the live premiere performance available on DECCA.
- Review: With Protest and Fire, an Oratorio Mourns a Tragedy. –The New York Times
- Julia Wolfe’s Haunting Elegy to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory” –The Nation
- Philharmonic Piece Inspired by Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Set to Debut. –The Wall Street Journal
- Bang on a Can composer Julia Wolfe ignites the New York Philharmonic.– ArtsJournal
More Fire in my mouth info, including score preview, is available on Julia’s website.