Haugland was among his generation's most-noted bassos, with a voice somewhere between basso cantante and basso profondo and the power and stamina for even the most demanding Wagnerian roles. Though he specialized in Wagner, he enjoyed great success in Russian roles as well and has occasionally appeared in other German operas (most notably as Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier) and Italian operas, as well as creating the role of the Commander in Ruder's The Handmaid's Tale. He began singing early with the Copenhagen Boys' Choir, though when he entered Copenhagen University, he studied medicine as well as singing. He made his opera debut at the Den Norske Opera in 1968 as Brewer in Martinu's The Comedy on the Bridge and in 1973, he first appeared at the Royal Danish Opera, beginning a long-term association with that house. In 1975, he made his debut in England at Covent Garden as Hunding in Wagner's Die Walküre. His United States debut was at the St. Louis Opera Theater as Boris Godunov in 1979. Two years later, he made his debut at La Scala as King Mark in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde and his 1983 Bayreuth Festival debut as Hagen in Die Götterdämmerung. His premature death interrupted an ever-expanding repertoire, as he continued to add roles ranging from Gianni Schicchi to King Saul in Nielsen's Saul and David to Wozzeck, as well as creating new roles such as the Commander (2000) and Jason in Liebermann's The Acquittal of Medea (1995).