It’s Saturday afternoon in Trail, BC. 1955. Opera is blaring on the radio. My mom loves it. I hate it. I can’t understand a word. First of all, it’s NOT rock and roll. Second, the high pitched singing offends my sensibilities. Besides, anyone can do that and I do. I fill my lungs and belt out Figaro like nobody’s business F-I-G-A-R-O-O- Figaro qui, Figaro li, Figaro su, Figaro giu-u-u, Figaro qua, Figaro la-a-a-a”. My cousin and I make up a dirty little ditty to La Donna E Mobile. How we screeched with laughter.
Many music genres tickled my ears and moved my soul over the decades, even, believe it or not, opera! Here’s how it happened.
Movie and drive-in theatres were closing around the continent, including our own Auto-Vue Drive-In, and our one remaining movie theatre went up for sale. The community got wind of its possible purchase by a plucky inventive couple, Lisa and Jason Milne. The two already had jobs in Trail and they bought it in August of 2009 “as a bit of an investment”. They quickly cleaned it up and delved into the workings of the movie industry.
As they started learning the ropes, Lisa fell in love with the building. She and Jason envisioned an expansive use for the theatre: diversity; offer a lot of different things to customers. They started asking questions of the movie studios about providing alternative content, such as important NHL Vancouver Canuck games, and performances from the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD. The movie studios did not like these ideas and preferred to keep the contract simple…only play their content. Lisa and Jason refused to take no for an answer, making the point that having one movie theatre in a small town would no longer meet the entertainment needs of the Greater Trail population. They persisted. Lisa: “I think the movie studios just got sick of us asking. It all comes back to our patrons. They desired the content and it’s been a success”.
I’ll say it has! I, the opera hater, get wind of Opera being piped in LIVE from the Met, WITH subtitles and a scene by scene synopsis. I’m intrigued. Familiar opera names like Aida, Samson & Delilah appear on the Royal Theatre’s website. I open to the possibility of checking one out! But 3 or 4 hours? Beginning at 10 on Saturday mornings? I dunno. There IS an intermission. I read the “Coles Notes” versions of these performances and I throw caution to the wind. I’m in!! Off I trundle to the Opera! Ma, can you believe this??? I absolutely flipping LOVE it. Being a tad older, I come to appreciate the art form, the costumes, the sets, and especially the performers. Intermission is the bonus opportunity to watch the stars being interviewed, to see how sets are built and moved between scenes. I’m moved and in awe. I even bought a season’s pass one year.
With a season’s pass, you get to mix and match 8 performances from: the MET, dance performances, and musical theatre—8 performances for the price of 6. What a great way to hunker down with friends.
Other offerings are two Specialty Series: a Moms & Tots event for ‘Grown-Up’ during winter months (yes, you can nurse your baby) and Sensory Friendly all year shows for people having particular challenges, where they can relax and enjoy animated content with lowered volume and smaller crowds. Lisa and Jason think of everything. “No one else in the Kootenays does this. It’s a welcoming environment…and feedback from the parents is positive.”
The Royal Theatre Trail is fully Covid aware, and the owners will ensure patrons are safe and comfortable. Enhancements to the theatre are underway that will allow the theatre to survive and thrive. “It will be pretty spectacular.”
Lisa: “We at the royal are always trying to diversify and make sure we have the best and up to date technology available and ensure that the entertainment level is what the customers demand. We need to provide a top notch experience and that’s part of what we do and we’re proud of how we do it.”
When the border finally opens, American friends, you are encouraged to make a day or two of it. Check out the theatre, our old family run Italian deli, “Star Grocery’, visit our famous “Ferraro Foods” for cultural diversity, take in an art show at the Visac Gallery, or noodle around Trail’s hundreds of rock walls. Oh yah, and the Columbia River runs through it.