Opera Frontier went to Addis Ababa Ethiopia in January 2019 to collaborate with Circus Abyssinia.  This piece features western classical music and circus arts, fused with traditional Ethiopian instruments and dance. For the collaboration, Opera Frontier repurposed an aria from Handel’s Messiah (Rejoice Greatly) with lyrics that place the four young women — Ethiopian circus artists — at the center of an empowering scene.

  • BETELHEM DEJENE, Circus Artist
  • HELEN SHIMELES, Circus Artist
  • SEMERET GETACHEW, Circus Artist
  • GAIL SIMPSON, Soprano
  • SUE BOHLIN, Harpsichord, Berkeley
  • ENDRIS HASANI, Masenqo, Addis Ababa
  • KAETHE HOSTETTER, Violin, Addis Ababa
  • BENYAM (BICHU) TESFAMARIAM, Director, Artistic Director/Co-Founder, Circus Abyssinia (www.BibiandBichu.com)
  • GAIL SIMPSON, Producer, Artistic Director/Founder, Opera Frontier, (www.OperaFrontier.org)
  • TEWEDROS ASSEFA, Director of Photography, Addis Ababa
  • STEVE SHLISKY, Editor, Oakland
  • With special thanks to Meseret Daba (Oakland) and Jebessa Deribe, Rahwe Rifter and the Ethiopian National Theater (Addis Ababa)


The soundtrack for “Rejoice Abyssinia” features Addis Ababa musicians (on masenqo and violin) infusing Handel’s score with improvisations that characterize Ethiopian music. Opera Frontier modified Handel’s original lyrics, replacing patriarchal Old Testament language of “Lord”, “Savior” and “heathen” with lyrics that call young women to be peacemakers: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughters of heaven. Shout!! O Soul of Abyssinia. Behold your dream comes unto you. You are the righteous dreamers who will speak peace to all people!” These lyrics celebrate the increasingly important role women play in politics and raise our hopes for peace. This performance is dedicated to empowered female leaders around the world and to the new generation of young women they inspire.


To learn more about Circus Abyssinia, see https://www.bibiandbichu.com/circus-abyssinia. In a thrilling premier in December 2018, the Circus opened “Ethiopian Dreams” in an Off-Broadway Theater in New York City. Audiences and reviewers were charmed. For a review see https://www.broadwayworld.com/off-broadway/article/BWW-Review-CIRCUS-ABYSSINIA-Ethiopian-Dreams-Come-True-in-NYC-20181226.

See Opera Frontier’s YouTube hit with more than 330,000 views: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lotOhv2kXY. To learn more about Opera Frontier, visit https://www.operafrontier.org where you can see other projects that fuse opera with world music: “Bollywood Lakme” mixes Indian elements with a famous duet from a Delibes opera, and “Arabian Magic Mozart” fuses Arab elements with a trio from Mozart’s Magic Flute.

Preview of Rejoice Abyssinia

March 2020 International Women’s Day: Opera Frontier’s Rejoice Abyssinia celebrates the role of Ethiopia’s girls and women as peacemakers in a collaboration with Circus Abyssinia.

Interview with Gail Simpson on January 20, 2019 broadcast on Fana TV in Addis Ababa about “Rejoice Abyssinia”.