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Local operatic legend Castles-Onion returns to Cessnock

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He’s built a reputation as one of Australia’s most exciting and well-known musical maestros.

Now, Cessnock’s favourite son Brian Castles-Onion returns to Performance Arts Culture Cessnock (PACC) on Sunday 3 March with a new show, An Afternoon at the Opera.

Inducted into the City of Cessnock Hall of Fame in 2008, Castles-Onion’s career has taken him to every corner of the globe, having worked at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the Juilliard School of Music and the Rossini Festival in Italy.

He’s also held the position of Artistic Director of Canterbury Opera in New Zealand.

In concert, Brian Castles-Onion is a celebrated compere and conductor.

He was on the podium for Opera Australia’s 40th and 60th Anniversary Galas, The Robert Allman Farewell Gala and conducted the Joan Sutherland State Memorial Service, which was broadcast internationally on television and radio.

He’s performed with a veritable who’s who of opera royalty, including Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Placido Domingo and José Carreras.

From an early age, Castles-Onion knew that music would play an integral part in his future.

He was introduced to the artform when family friends offered up an old piano.

“My parents had no musical background whatsoever, so the piano sat in our living room,” he said.

“When I was four, I asked for lessons.

“My mother thought it would be a seven-day wonder, but it lasted.”

And, last it did.

These days Castles-Onion is regarded as one of Australia’s most respected and sought-after conductors.

Renowned for his infectious enthusiasm and tireless dedication to the art form, he’s a regular fixture on the podium with Opera Australia, having wrapped a sell-out season of Madama Butterfly for Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour in 2023.

He is also a best-selling author, esteemed adjudicator and frequent public speaker.

“Opera is my life and I really can’t imagine doing anything else,” Castles-Onion said.

“It’s been my passion since the age of four and my focus has always been on opera.

“It’s the best of all theatre, I think, because there is music, acting, singing and it’s grand looking and you can be totally carried into this new world.”

Expect the trademark Castles-Onion wit to be on full display, from 2pm, when he takes the stage with three of Australia’s brightest operatic talents – Danita Weatherstone (Soprano), Virgilio Marino (Tenor), and Luke Gabbedy (Baritone).

“I introduce each piece and sometimes it’s in a humorous way, because some of the music is in a foreign language and it needs to be accessible to the audience,” he said.

Tickets are on sale at the PACC Box Office, by phone on 02 4993 4266 or online at mypacc.com.au.

An Afternoon at the Opera

  • When: Sunday 3 March
  • Where: PACC | Performance Arts Culture Cessnock
  • Time: 2pm

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