Born: June 4, 1957; Died: October 30, 2012.

Robert Poulton, who has died aged 55 in a car accident, was emerging as a major force in the music world, having performed with many leading opera companies in the UK and abroad.

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He made his debut with the Royal Opera (as Sciarrone in Tosca in 2000), sung prominent roles with English National Opera (Gunter in Gotterdammerung and Chorebus in Les Troyens), gained critical acclaim for a vibrant Falstaff with Welsh National last year and Golaud in Pelleas et Melisande with Glyndebourne Touring Company in 1999. At the time of his accident he had been singing the role of the Gamekeeper in Rusalka on the current Glyndebourne tour.

He began his career gaining invaluable stage experience in the Glyndebourne chorus and then with Scottish Opera. He sang minor roles in many Scottish Opera productions (and a memorable Count in Figaro in 1989) before being cast in the company's world premiere of Judith Weir's Vanishing Bridegroom in 1990. The following year he was in Scottish Opera's memorable new production of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito at the Edinburgh Festival.

He returned to Scottish Opera earlier this year when he sang a suitably menacing Scarpia in Puccini's Tosca.

The Herald wrote of his performance: "He stole the show with his voice as domineering and captivating as his character."

Poulton clearly enjoyed singing "the arch-baddie", as he described Scarpia. He said: "It's fun to play something like Scarpia and to come away from it – you can be as nasty as you like while you're up there, and then it's done."

Robert Poulton was born in Brighton and studied at the Guildhall School of Music and the National Opera Studio. His first major role with English National Opera was in 2001 in the world premiere of David Sawer's From Morning to Midnight. Other roles at the Coliseum included Prince Arjuna in Satyagrahaga and a Don Afonso two years later in Cosi fan tutte. Appearances at Welsh National (Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola) and Opera North (Germont in La Traviata) followed and confirmed Poulton as a baritone of much vocal style and dramatic integrity.

This was acknowledged when he was booked to sing major roles at Netherlands Opera‚ Opera Zuid‚ the Adelaide Festival‚ Copenhagen and Cologne. The director Pier Audi recalled "two memorable experiences" working with Poulton in Amsterdam. "Bob ranks among the five greatest singer-actors with whom I have worked," he said.

Recent engagements included a commanding Rigoletto with Holland Park Opera; Ortel in Meistersingers at the Glyndebourne Festival; Verdi's Macbeth in Golden Story, a Shakespeare music and drama event at the Royal Opera House; Don Carlos in Forza del Destino on London's South Bank with Chelsea Opera Group and Amonasro in Aida at the Royal Albert Hall.

Poulton was a much-admired colleague; he had a commanding stage presence and an ability to inhabit a character, exploring its humour, drama and pathos. The Scottish counter-tenor Christopher Robson paid tribute to his friend: "The love and respect all his colleagues had for Rob burns so blindingly bright that it seems almost pointless to say any more. Rob was a man of many talents and fine gifts devoted to his wife and family."

Robert Poulton is survived by his wife Philippa and their two sons.