Finnish bass Timo Riihonen is in Melbourne for Opera Australia’s concert staging of Tannhäuser, Richard Wagner’s 1845 opera about redemption and love’s triumph over lust.

Riihonen is performing the role of Landgraf Hermann (Hermann I, Landgrave of Thuringia), who invites the opera’s eponymous Minnesinger to compete in the Wartburg Song Contest.

Timo Riihonen. Photo © Ville Paasimaa

Riihonen describes Tannhäuser as “very audience friendly”, with iconic orchestral and choral moments like The Entrance of the Guests that precedes the song contest. He encourages audiences to come with “an open heart and an open mind”.

“When the orchestra starts up, it plays the main theme of the opera, so you are immediately drawn into the piece.” He believes hit arias like Elizabeth’s Dich, teure Halle and Wolfram’s O du, mein holder Abendstern make it the perfect opera to perform in concert, and the Pilgrims’ Chorus is bound to leave audiences “humming their way home”.

Riihonen tells Limelight that he still gets goosebumps whenever he hears the chorus and jumps at any opportunity to be a part of it. He reveals that...