Acclaimed opera singers and real-life husband and wife John Riesen, tenor, and Gillian Lynn Cotter (Riesen), mezzo-soprano, have compiled a collection of their favorite holiday tunes in the classic styles of Andy Williams, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, Michael Buble, and more. CHRISTMAS AT HOME, a collection of beautiful, intimate, and heartfelt carols, was released on Friday, November 27 on all streaming services, including Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, and Pandora. Advance review tracks are available!
With the COVID-19 health crisis impacting the live performing arts industry in the US, Riesen and Cotter put their minds to a passion project they’ve long desired to make, a Christmas album of classic songs and duets. To accomplish this, the singers banded together with a family organization in Detroit, Michigan called Box Five Productions and a studio in Lansing, Michigan, Blue Griffin Recording, to produce the album, with hopes to uplift and bring music to so many in need of it during this challenging year.
Riesen and Lynn Cotter are joined by pianist Neill Campbell and jazz trombonist Chris Glassman, with background vocals by Lindsay Campbell. Tracks include the classics “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “The Man with the Bag,” “O Holy Night,” “Let it Snow,” “Sleigh Ride,” “White Christmas,” “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “The Christmas Song.”
John Riesen and Gillian Lynn Cotter met performing professionally in 2014 as Artists in Residence with Shreveport Opera in Louisiana. As their working relationship grew, so did their romantic relationship. As they continued to perform around the world in locations such as Italy, China, and across the US, they got engaged, married, and now have a beautiful baby boy together. CHRISTMAS AT HOME is their latest collaboration.
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ABOUT JOHN RIESEN: Hailed as “impassioned…and vibrant” (Opera Today), award-winning American tenor John Riesen is consistently impressing audiences with his “fantastic, powerful voice” (Texarkana Gazette). Riesen’s growing career boasts a variety of roles in which he excels and includes significant work in Opera, Musical Theater and concert. Looking ahead to the 2020/2021 season, John will return to acclaimed roles such as Younger Thompson in Glory Denied, Ralph Rackstraw in H.M.S. Pinafore with Pensacola Opera, and Frederic in Pirates of Penzance with Utah Opera, as well as his Carnegie Hall debut as tenor soloist in the Messiah with Musica Sacra under the baton of Kent Tritle in 2021.
2019/2020 season highlights include house and role debuts at Michigan Opera Theater in the role of Adolfo Pirelli in Sweeney Todd and a return to one of John’s most celebrated roles, Younger Thompson in Glory Denied with Atlanta Opera* and Urban Arias. Other highlights of the upcoming season include a debut with the New York Oratorio Society as the tenor soloist in Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, a return to Intermountain Opera Bozeman as Bill Calhoun in Kiss Me Kate and to Opera Birmingham as Prince Charmant in their production of Massenet’s Cendrillon.
In the 2018/2019 season, John was seen as Prince Charmant in Cendrillon (Opera Company of Middlebury), Lensky in Eugene Onegin (Intermountain Opera Bozeman), Alfredo in La Traviata (Gulfshore Opera, Tri-Cities Opera), Younger Thomspon in Glory Denied (Opera Birmingham, Des Moines Metro Opera), Candide in Candide (Chautauqua Opera), and made his Lincoln Center debut as Tony in West Side Story Suite (New York City Ballet). In the last few seasons, John performed across the U.S., including appearances with the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, FAR Conservatory, Shades of Pink Foundation, NY Oratorio Society, Marshall Symphony, Jackson Symphony, Texarkana Symphony, Shreveport Symphony and Cuttime productions, as well as in concerts in Texarkana, TX; Pensacola and Miami, FL; Detroit, MI; Tulsa, OK; and more. Theatrically, Mr. Riesen was featured as Gaston in Beauty and the Beast at Shreveport Opera, Tony in West Side Story with the Boulder Philharmonic/Central City Opera, Tony in West Side Story with the New York City Ballet at the Lincoln Center, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly (Pensacola Opera), Rodolfo in La Boheme (Shreveport Opera) and Frederic in Pirates of Penzance (Opera Ithaca, Shreveport Opera).
In 2016, John completed his second of two seasons as the resident tenor at Shreveport Opera, where he sang many leading roles, including Father Grenville in Dead Man Walking, Ralph Rackstraw in H.M.S Pinafore, Don José (cover)/Remendado in Carmen, Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance and Alfredo (cover)/Gastone in La Traviata. The previous year, John finished his third season at Chautauqua Opera as an AGMA apprentice artist. In his three summers at Chautauqua, he performed many roles, including Lensky in Eugene Onegin, Stagedoorman/2nd Dandy in The Ballad of Baby Doe, Malcom (cover) in Macbeth and Rector Adams (cover) in Peter Grimes. He was awarded the Chautuaqua Opera’s Studio Artist Award in 2012, Returning Apprentice Award in 2014 and Apprentice Artist Award in his final year, 2015.
Other awards and honors include first place in the Harold Haugh Light Opera Competition, second place in the William C. Byrd Competition, Regional Finalist and the Audience Choice Award in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Gulf Coast Region (2015), Great Lakes Region (2014 and 2013); second place in the Mary Jacobs Smith Singer of the Year Competition (2016), as well as the competition’s Dr. Melvin & Lea Johnson memorial award the previous year; fifth place in the Opera Columbus Cooper-Bing Competition (2015); and the Clare S. Mackey Endowed Fund at Michigan State University among other merits.
He has been privileged to sing for political figures, including President Barack Obama, President Jimmy Carter, Judge Stephanie Kulp Seymour and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He also has been honored to sing the national anthem at several collegiate, semi-professional and professional athletic organizations, including the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park, the Pensacola Ice Flyers, MSU hockey/baseball and more.
Before singing, John avidly pursued athletics and he attained Academic All-State honors in 2008 in baseball and All-Region in 2006 and 2007 (also for baseball) in the state of Michigan. His athletic career segued quickly into his singing during college, and has helped influence his performing ever since.
ABOUT GILLIAN LYNN COTTER: Hailed as “impeccable” (Broadway World), award-winning American mezzo-soprano Gillian Lynn Cotter is quickly impressing audiences with her strong voice and dynamic presence. Recent roles include Hansel in Hansel and Gretel (Opera Louisiane), Suzuki in Madama Butterfly (Pensacola Opera), Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking (Shreveport Opera), Rinaldo in Rinaldo (Fresco Opera) and Angelica in the world premier of A Capcity for Evil with Opera MODO.
Ms. Cotter is currently enjoying her second year as an Apprentice Artist at the Santa Fe Opera where she is covering the role of Karolka in Jenůfa and will be featured in Act 2 of Hänsel und Gretel as Hänsel in the Apprentice Scenes Showcase.
The 2016-17 season included many debuts for Ms. Cotter including her PORTopera debut as Mrs. Nolan in Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Medium and Carmen (cover) in Bizet’s Carmen. Ms. Cotter also made her debut with Pensacola Opera as Older Alyce in Glory Denied directed by Dean Anthony, and continued the season with a cover of Amneris in Verdi’s Aida and two performances of Jade Boucher in Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, where she also covered the role of Sister Helen Prejean. Ms. Cotter was recently featured in the Art Song Preservation Society’s Masterclass Series of Italian Art Songs and Arias with coach Joan Dornemann at the National Opera Center and shortly after made her debut at Fresco Opera Theatre singing the title role in their production of Rinaldo to much acclaim. Ms. Cotter was a
resident artist for Shreveport Opera for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons where she sang the roles of Sister Helen Prejean, Dead Man Walking; Mercédès, Carmen; Flora, La Traviata; Kate, The Pirates of Penzance and Tisbe in La Cenerentola as well as covered the role of Angelina.
In the summer of 2014, Ms. Cotter was a member of the prestigious Gerdine Young Artist Program with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis where she sang Second Spirit in The Magic Flute and covered the role of Sr. Mathilde in Dialogues of the Carmelites. Other recent roles include Sesto, La Clemenza di Tito; Prince Orlovsky, Die Fledermaus; Ottavia, L’incoronazione di Poppea; Mrs. Grose, The Turn of the Screw; Doralice, La Gazzetta; Beppe, L’amico Fritz; Nicklausse, Les Contes D’Hoffmann; La Frugola, Il Tabarro and Adeline, Strawberry Fields.
Ms. Cotter has performed as a soloist in many concert works including Handel’s Messiah, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Mozart’s Mass in C major and the Bach Cantata 133 with various orchestras including the Mason Symphony, Shreveport Symphony, Rapides Symphony Orchestra, Lakeview Symphony Orchestra, New England Conservatory Symphony and the State University of New York at Fredonia Symphony.
Ms. Cotter recently placed 1st in the 2017 Opera MODO competition and won the grand prize in the Ann Arbor Song Slam where she performed the world premier of “Invictus” by composer Evan Snyder. Ms. Cotter was a Regional Finalist for the 2018, 2017 and 2016 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in the Mid-Atlantic, Gulf Coast and the Great Lakes Region and placed 2nd in the 2017 Rochester Opera Competition and the 2016 Mary Jacobs Smith Singer of the Year Competition. In 2015, Ms. Cotter was awarded the New Orleans District “Encouragement Award” for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and was awarded the Barbara Marshall Award in the Mary Jacobs Smith Singer of the Year Award.
Off the opera stage, Ms. Cotter is an avid marathoner having completed the 2013 Wine Glass Full Marathon in Corning, NY and the 2014 Philadelphia Full Marathon and the 2017 Buffalo Half Marathon.