Stinney, A New Opera by Frances Pollock
Stinney tells the story of George Stinney, Jr. who was fourteen years old when he was executed in North Carolina's electric chair on June 16, 1944.
George was five feet tall and weighed 90 pounds. He was too small for the adult sized electric chair, and had to be propped up on books including his own bible. Stinney remains the youngest person to be executed in the United States.
He had been convicted of murdering two young, white girls. The only evidence presented against him was his own statement to the police that he had seen the girls picking wildflowers. Stinney was convicted in a two hour trial. He was executed less than three months after the murders.
Stinney is a new opera with music and libretto by 24-year old Frances Pollock. Pollock was studying for a Master's in Voice at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University when she became aware of the Stinney tragedy. "I was living near (Baltimore's) Lexington Market. I would walk every day form one landmark to another , Peabody,
and seeing the abject poverty and drug addiction in between. I was reminded of my own hometown, Winston -Salem. The two cities are still segregated in a lot of ways."
Stinney premiered in Baltimore last month. Tim Smith in the Baltimore Sun didn't mince words : "The result is a bold, bracing opera that pulls no punches and never flinches. The language is often raw, the depiction is just as uncomfortable...this is a remarkable achievement by any measure."
Music and opera give voice to that which cannot be said. The horror of George Stinney's story is unspeakable. I have high hopes of seeing a production of which sounds to be a great achievement from 24-year old composer/librettist/stage director Pollock. The rehearsal process must have been difficult for many reasons.
George Stinney's exoneration earlier this year, is hardly a comfort to his family. This opera will at least get people thinking, weeping and remembering, and underlining: Never Again.