British baritone;

Born: April 12, 1927; Died April 11, 2013.

Thomas Hemsley, who has died aged 85, rose to fame as one of Britain's most perceptive operatic baritones, specialising in the choicest of comic roles – Dr Malatesta in Don Pasquale, Dr Falke in Die Fledermaus – at a time when the fledgling Scottish Opera, along with its equivalents in Wales and Kent, was on the lookout for the right person to sing them. Here, they discovered, was somebody who brilliantly filled the bill, and who showed he also had the flair to take on a part as demanding as that of the waspish Beckmesser in Wagner's Die Meistersinger at Bayreuth – one of the supreme achievements of his career between 1968 and 1970, soon to be repeated in David Pountney's Scottish Opera production of the same work.

When Scottish Opera moved into the Theatre Royal in 1975, he was likewise a conspicuous presence on the opening night in the role of Dr Falke in David Pountney's production of Johann Strauss's operetta, where he looked quite unlike any previous exponent of the part – but also, with bald pate and big staring eyes, not at all unlike himself. It was a memorable portrayal, just right for a company bringing fresh vision to the art of opera and to its own intimate new Glasgow premises.

By then approaching his fifties, he had already sung Julius Caesar in the premiere of Iain Hamilton's austerely atonal treatment of Ben Jonson's play, The Catiline Conspiracy. This provided less scope for comedy at the MacRobert Centre, Stirling University, where Scottish Opera had boldly launched a cycle of important new Scottish commissions – the other works were by Thea Musgrave, Thomas Wilson and Robin Orr – and was clearly on the crest of one of its early waves of success.

Comedy, however, regained priority in his contribution to Der Rosenkavalier, where he brought all his customary poise – he was, apart from anything else, the most vividly articulate of singers – to the character of Faninal, the Viennese arms dealer turned suavely pretentious nobleman who, as young Sophie's father, pervades Act Two of Richard Strauss's opera.

Anthony Besch's elaborate production, which formed the culmination of the company's first glorious decade, had Helga Dernesch, Janet Baker and Elizabeth Harwood as its superb female triumvirate, but it also inspired one of Hemsley's deft little comic triumphs, as did his portrayal of Dr Malatesta in Peter Ebert's updating of Donizetti's Don Pasquale – one of the first of its kind anywhere – dating from the same period.

Here the patter duet – Cheti, cheti – once again displayed the racy diction of this Leicestershire-born baritone. So did his famous supper parties. with his wife Gwen as cook, for those lucky enough to attend them. He and Gwen were married in 1960 and had three sons.

Yet it was as a serious and improbably youthful Aeneas in the famous Mermaid Theatre production of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas in London (with the ageing Kirsten Flagstad as the tragic heroine) that he had made his name in 1951. Glyndebourne lured him with roles ranging from Masetto in Don Giovanni to the comic Hercules in Gluck's Alceste.

At the Aldeburgh Festival, he sang Demetrius in the premiere of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and his beautiful, flexible voice was heard to eloquent advantage in his many Schubert recitals, one of them given in period costume, as was fashionable at the time, during Ledlanet Nights, Scotland's bijou Glyndebourne in the Kinross-shire countryside in the 1970s.