Though his voice sometimes lacked individuality, Stuart Burrows was in many ways an ideal Mozart and French lyric tenor, flexible and with a seemingly seamless technique. He was also scrupulous musician, known for saying that a role can be memorized but never fully learned, that there is always more to add and rethink. While he occasionally and carefully sang some heavier roles, such as Lensky in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Alfredo in Verdi's La traviata, Gounod's Faust, and even the title role in Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann, he never, as many of his predecessors and successors did, forced and harmed his voice by choosing the wrong repertoire.
His only formal music schooling ended when he was 12, and though he continued to sing informally he began his career as a schoolteacher. However, in 1959, he entered for and won the tenor prize at the Royal National Eisteddfod (singing competition), which led to several concert engagements. He did not make his operatic debut until four years later, at the Welsh National Opera, singing the relatively insignificant (though not quite comprimario) role of Ismaele in Verdi's Nabucco. Soon he added more leading roles to his repertoire, including several more lyric Verdi roles. His big break came when he was invited by the composer to sing the title role of Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex in Athens, Greece. In 1967, he made his Covent Garden debut as Beppe in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, and remained with that company for 22 seasons. He made both his Vienna State Opera and Salzburg Festival debuts in 1970, as Tamino in Mozart's The Magic Flute and as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, respectively, following up this double-header with his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1971 (again as Ottavio). Burrows was the first singer from the United Kingdom to sing 12 consecutive seasons at that house. His La Scala debut was in 1978 in Berlioz's La damnation de Faust. He was also a favorite on BBC television, where he made an annual Stuart Burrows Sings program. He performed himself and joined with guest artists, in opera, songs, folk music, and musical theater; the program ran for eight years.