Born in Cessnock, Brian Castles-Onion is one of Australia’s most exciting and well-known opera conductors. Completing his tertiary studies at the Newcastle Conservatorium of Music, his outstanding achievements speak for themselves.
His career expands internationally having worked at New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the Julliard School of Music. He has worked at the Rossini Festival in Italy, held the position of Artistic Director of Canterbury Opera in New Zealand and currently continues his long run association with Opera Australia.
His conducting experience – well over five hundred opera performances alone - throughout Australia, Asia and New Zealand includes: La bohème (Puccini) Faust (Gounod), La Traviata, (Verdi), Les pêcheurs de perles (Bizet), Il barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini), Don Giovanni (Mozart), Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti), Così fan tutte (Mozart), Lucio Silla (Mozart), Rinaldo (Handel), Les contes d’Hoffmann (Offenbach), The Telephone (Menotti), Turandot (Puccini), Norma (Bellini), The Merry Widow (Lehar), Lakmé (Delibes), A Little Night Music (Sondheim), La forza del destino (Verdi), Manon (Massenet), The Mikado (Sullivan), Tosca (Puccini), Carmen (Bizet), Samson et Dalila (Saint-Saens), La sonnambula (Bellini), Rigoletto (Verdi), Die Fledermaus (J. Strauss), To Hell & Back (Heggie), Prima la musica (Salieri), Iolanthe (Sullivan), The Pirates of Penzance (Sullivan), The Gondoliers (Sullivan), H.M.S. Pinafore (Sullivan), Trial by Jury (Sullivan) and My Fair Lady (Loewe).
He was on the podium for Opera Australia’s 40th Anniversary Gala and 60th Anniversary Gala, The Robert Allman Farewell Gala and conducted the Dame Joan Sutherland State Memorial Service – which was broadcast internationally on television and radio.
Well known as a Public Speaker and compère, he has made guest appearances at Corporate Dinners, various Opera Forums and presented over two dozen ‘Opera in the Park’ in Perth, Sydney and the Hunter Valley – amassing a large following of fans. His book “Losing the Plot in Opera” has been a Best Seller in Australia and the UK.
His recital and concert appearances have seen him as conductor and pianist for Kiri Te Kanawa, Sumi Jo, Frederica von Stade, Placido Domingo, José Carreras and Geraldine Turner. His recordings include The Mikado and La traviata for ABC Classics, The Stephen Sondheim Songbook, When We Met, Amoureuse, The Power of Love, Puccini Passion, Geraldine Turner – The Stephen Sondheim Songbook Volume Two, The Enchanted Hour, the soundtrack to the American film Harlem Aria, the complete series on DVD of Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour and produced ten volumes in the new series on Désirée Records – “Great Australian Voices”.
Recent engagements include La bohème, The Mikado, Tosca, Carmen, Don Pasquale and La traviata for Opera Australia; seven consecutive seasons of Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour (La traviata, Carmen - twice, Madama Butterfly, Aida & Turandot), Tosca, Rigoletto and Don Giovanni for West Australian Opera and concerts with Kiri Te Kanawa, the 3 Chinese Tenors, Sumi Jo, Christmas at the Opera House, Opera in the Vineyards and the last six New Year's Eve Galas at the Sydney Opera House. 2017 saw him conducting Gianni Schicchi (Puccini) and La Vida Breve (da Falla) for South Opera South Australia, Carmen (Bizet) for Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, Carmen (Bizet) for Opera Australia in Melbourne and Madama Butterfly (Puccini) at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney – and in 2018, the New Year’s Eve Gala at the Sydney Opera House, La bohème on Sydney Harbour, Heggie’s To Hell and Back along with L’elisir d’amore in Melbourne. In 2019 he conducted Sydney Festival’s “Opera in the Domain”, several concerts and Madama Butterfly for Opera Australia at the Sydney Opera House.
Brian became a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the 2017 Australia Day Honours List.