‘Shining out above the theatrical elements are the conducting skills of Brian Castles-Onion, who has performed his heroic role for Opera Australia with every single Handa Opera so far, pulling the whole production together’.

City News 2018

Brian Castles-Onion is Australia’s most exciting and best-known opera conductor. He has been described as ‘Exceptionally Brilliant’, ‘Dynamic’ and ‘Fabulous’.  In 2017, he conducted Madama Butterfly for Opera Australia, Carmen for Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour and Gianni Schicchi and La Vida Breve for South Opera SA.  Brian became a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2017 Australia Day Honours List.


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 and the Rossini Festival in Italy, has been Artistic Director of Canterbury Opera in New Zealand and continues a long association with Opera Australia.

His conducting experience throughout Australia, Asia and New Zealand includes: La bohème, Faust, La Traviata, Les pêcheurs de perles, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Don Giovanni, Lucia di Lammermoor, Così fan tutte, Lucio Silla, Rinaldo, Les contes d’Hoffmann, The Telephone, Turandot, Norma, The Merry Widow, Lakmé, A Little Night Music, La forza del destino, Manon, The Mikado, Tosca, Carmen, Samson et Dalila, Rigoletto, Carmen, Die Fledermaus, Iolanthe, The Pirates of Penzance, The Gondoliers, H.M.S. Pinafore and My Fair Lady.

In concert, Brian Castles-Onion is a celebrated compère as well as conductor.  He was on the podium for Opera Australia’s 40th Anniversary Gala and The Robert Allman Farewell Gala and conducted the Joan Sutherland State Memorial Service – which was broadcast internationally on television and radio.  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 Stephen Sondheim Songbook, When We Met, Amoureuse, The Power of Love, Puccini Passion, Geraldine Turner – The Stephen Sondheim Songbook Volume Two, the soundtrack to the American film Harlem Aria and the new series on Désirée Records - Great Australian Voices: Nance Grant, Robert Allman and Geraldine Turner.

His most recent engagements include La bohème, The Mikado, Carmen, Don Pasquale and La traviata for Opera Australia; five consecutive seasons of Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour (La traviata, Carmen, 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, Opera in the Vineyards 2016 and the New Year's Eve Gala at the Sydney Opera House.