GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Opera Grand Rapids is premiering a new performance this weekend called Stinney: An American Execution. It kicked off last night with a sold-out show and will pick back up again tonight.

“We’ve had so many people across town who happen to be Black say, ‘I can’t believe that you all are doing this here in Grand Rapids,'” conductor of the production, Austin McWilliams said.

The cast consists of 20 adult opera singers, five children and 11 orchestra players who will collaboratively tell the story about George Stinney Jr.

Stinney, 14, was found guilty in 1944 by an all-white jury of raping and murdering two white girls in Alcolu, South Carolina.

He was sentenced to death by electric chair, becoming the youngest person in the 20th century to be legally executed in the United States. Stinney was exonerated in 2014 when a judge ruled his trial was unfair.

Stinney: An American Execution was composed by Frances Pollock in 2015, though this weekend’s show will be the world premiere and the first ever professional opera premiere in the history of Opera Grand Rapids.

“It’s a story about rape, murder and trauma told artistically well. It’s really good music. It’s really good art,” McWilliams said. “It’s also worth recognizing that stories like this that center around injustice, that center
around injustice specifically are not often told in Grand Rapids.”

Stinney will be played by Carter Dillet. He is a 7th grader at Northview Public Schools.

“It’s been good to tell the story of his life and even other people’s that have been involved with him — his mother, his father, people on the other side of the story,” he said.

Tickets can be purchased on