After winning several main prizes in major international singing competitions, such as the Cardiff Singer of the World, Kirsi Tiihonen began her career at the Finnish National Opera, singing Elisabetta (Don Carlo), Donna Anna (Don Giovanni), Leonore (Fidelio) and Desdemona (Otello), and subsequently was invited to return as a regular guest. During 1997-99, she debuted at the Savonlinna Opera Festival in the roles of Elisabeth (Tannhäuser) and Aida, followed by Senta (Der fliegende Holländer) and Venus/Elisabeth. In 2000, she added Sieglinde (Die Walküre) and Gutrune (Götterdämmerung) to her repertoire, singing with the Berlin State Opera on their tour of Japan and under the baton of Daniel Barenboim.
During the following seasons, she sang Amelia (Un ballo in maschera) at the Royal Danish Opera, Isolde (Tristan und Isolde) at Gothenburg Opera, Leonore (Fidelio) at the Komische Oper Berlin and the role of Riitta (The Last Temptations) by Joonas Kokkonen, performed at both, Tampere Opera and the Prague Spring Festival.
In 2005 the Finnish artist celebrated her debut at La Scala in Milan performing Elisabeth under the baton of Jeffrey Tate. The same year, she made her Richard Strauss debut as Ariadne (Ariadne auf Naxos) at the Lyon Opera and her second Strauss role, Die Färberin (Die Frau ohne Schatten) in Helsinki, which received international critical acclaim. In autumn of 2006, Kirsi further interpreted the role of Die Färberin at the Essen Aalto Opera under maestro Stefan Soltezs and performed Isolde at Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels.
Other highlights of Kirsi Tiihonen’s international career include Isolde at Leipzig Opera, Santiago de Chile and with the Norwegian Opera’s tour to Madrid, Leonore for the Palm Beach Opera and Berlin State Opera, Agathe (Der Freischütz) in Helsinki, Senta in the Philipp Stölzl production of Der fliegende Holländer at the Basel Opera as well as Brünnhilde (Siegfried) in Essen. In 2009 Tiihonen debuted as Elsa (Lohengrin) at Tampere Opera and returned to Helsinki to perform the role of Ellen Orford (Peter Grimes). Her most recent performances include Sieglinde (Die Walküre) at the Finnish National Opera, her debut as Kostelnicka in Janacek’s Jenufa at Malmö Opera in Sweden and Isolde at the Pablo Casals Festival in Puerto Rico. She also sang in the Patrice Chéreau production of Elektra, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen at the Finnish National Opera, sang her first Turandot in Kiel and made her debut at Deutsche Oper Berlin as Larina (Eugene Onegin) in 2019.
In addition to her opera career, Kirsi Tiihonen has appeared as a concert singer at most major concert halls in Europe.