Brian Castles-Onion is Australia’s most exciting and best-known opera conductor. His outstanding list of achievements speaks for itself.
After study abroad, he returned to Opera Australia in 1994 and was awarded the prestigious Churchill Fellowship to study conducting in Europe. He has worked at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, Juilliard School of Music and the Rossini Festival in Italy and, for six years, was Artistic Director of Canterbury Opera in New Zealand. He continues his long 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 Annual Dinners (Churchill Fellows Association etc), 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 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” 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 CD and DVD of Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour and produced six volumes in the new series on Désirée Records – Great Australian Voices: Nance Grant, Robert Allman, June Bronhill, Joan Sutherland, Jenifer Eddy, Marie Collier and Geraldine Turner.
His most 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 2016 and the last five New Year’s Eve Galas at the Sydney Opera House.
In 2017, 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. 2018 saw him conducting the New Year’s Eve Gala at the Sydney Opera House and La bohème on Sydney Harbour. Later this year he returns to conduct a season of Jake Heggie’s To Hell and Back in Melbourne.
Brian became a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2017 Australia Day Honours List.