Bali Dance - Arja Performance Opera

Bali Dances - A good performance of the folk opera Arja is a social event for the entire village. Shortly before midnight, everyone gathers around an open stage to watch a long love story unfold and conclude with the dawn. Sweethearts flirt unnoticed in the back rows. Young men attentively eye their favorite actress, a woman either charmingly beautiful or extremely witty.
Arja developed around 1880 as an all male dance drama out of the traditional Gambuh; female roles were later added. With more developed plots than other plays, Arja stories are mostly drawn from classical romances of the kingdoms of medieval East Java-Kediri, Singasari and Majapahit. The leading characters of the opera are members of the court and move in the highly stylized dance of the nobility, while they sing a low, wailing cadence in poetical Balinese. As usual, their staid countenance is complemented by the unruly knockabout of the clowns.

Arja plays are packed with sentimentality and melodrama. Like so many great love stories, there is invariably some tragic issue at stake causing the lovers' union to be near impossible their families prohibit the marriage, a jealous rival makes war on the hero, the princess is captured, the hero falls in love with another woman while under a magic spell. There are always long scenes of heart rending misery. Fallen from grace, the prince may be misunderstood, beaten, kicked and thrown out of his house. His tragic song reaches the peak of suffering, while angry jeers of the healthy and well-off continue their abuse. After interminable episodes of intrigue and misfortune, the lovers are at last reunited. But by this time, excitement has fled with sorrow, and Arja quickly comes to a close.
Although, a favorite among the villagers, Arja is difficult to follow for those who cannot understand the clowns' translations. Now a days Arja has been replaced as the most popular dance-drama by the drama gong, created in the late '60s, in which acting is even more preponderant, music and dance less so.

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