Bangsawan started in Penang around the 1870’s. Its original name was called Wayang or Teater Parsi (Persian Theatre) which then turned to Tiruan Wayang Parsi (Persian Imitation Theatre) when theatre groups were owned by the locals that used Malay language as the medium for their shows. As  time goes by, Tiruan Wayang Parsi changed its name to Bangsawan and finally what is known as Opera Melayu. Some people suggested that the name of Bangsawan were influenced by stories about palace and Bangsawan people.

In the early of 20th century, a lot of theatre Bangsawan troupes were formed. As these theatre troupes were adventurous and mobile, travelling around the Malay Peninsula, Indonesia, Thailand and Burma, it offered the opportunity to expose the general public to Bangsawan performance. 

The first commercial theatre Bangsawan in Malaya was presented solely for entertainment pusposes. The show consisted of drama, dance, singing, music, comedy and extra-turns. Extra-turns comprised orchestra music, singing, dance, magicians and other entertaining and spectacular acts.

The source of stories told in Bangsawan are varied. Many of them originated from India, Middle East, UK, China, Indonesia and Malaya. The stories are presented on a proscenium stage without scripts and its improvisatory in nature.

The improvisatory dominant acting element served as the catalyst that colours everything the show when performed. Bangsawan main aim as a commercial theatre is to please the audience with presentation based on popular taste and culture.

Bangsawan started in Penang around 1870's.

In the early of 20th century, a lot of theatre bangsawan troupes were formed.

The dominant acting element which is improvisation was the catalyst that coloured everything when the show was performed.