The Irish soprano, Norma (Elizabeth) Burrowes, sang in Bangor Parish Church Choir when it was directed by Alfred Burrows (no relation), and studied at the Queen's University in Belfast. She left Ireland when she had finished her degree at Queen's and went off to study in London with Flora Nielsen and Rupert Bruce-Lockhart at the Royal Academy of Music. She was singing demanding lead roles while still a student.
In 1970 Norma Burrowes made her professional operatic debut as Zerlina in Mozart's Don Giovanni with the Glyndebourne Touring Opera Company. Later that same year she made her first appearance at London's Covent Garden in the virtuoso part of the Fiakermilli in Richard Strauss' Arabella, and at the Glyndebourne Festival, as Papagena in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. The next year brought her Salzburg debut as Blonde in Mozart's The Abduction From the Seraglio. From 1971 she sang at the Sadler's Wells (later the English National) Opera in London, and quickly began to appear on the international scene, notably at the Salzburg Festival, the Paris Opera, the Aix-en-Provence Festival, and the Glyndebourne Festival (where she sang several roles between 1970 and 1981). On October 12, 1979, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut in New York as Blondchen.
Norma Burrowes began her career singing mostly soubrette roles, such as: Blonde, Susanna, Despina, but gradually expanded to light coloratura parts, such as: Adina, Norina, Marie, Oscar, Nanetta, Zerbinetta, later adding more lyrical roles such as: Pamina, Juliette, Manon. She is best known for her performance of Baroque music, particularly George Frideric Handel and Purcell, but has also excelled in Mozart and Haydn, as well as light opera, including those of Gilbert and Sullivan and Viennese operettas. She also toured widely as a concert singer and gave recitals. She is a singer with a pure and silvery voice, secure coloratura technique and delightful stage presence. After twenty years of being one of the most sought-after sopranos in the world, she retired in 1982 from the operatic stage. After retiring she moved to Toronto, Canada, where she teaches a new generation of singers at York University.
Norma Burrowes made several recordings, and appeared in television productions of operas and operettas. From 1969 to 1980 she was married to the conductor Steuart Bedford. She is now married to former tenor and voice teacher Emile Belcourt.