Vera Zorina

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Vera Zorina
File:Vera Zorina.jpg
Born Eva Brigitta Hartwig
(1917-01-02)January 2, 1917
Berlin, Germany
Died April 9, 2003(2003-04-09) (aged 86)
Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S.
Occupation Ballerina
musical theatre actress
Years active 1931-1946
Spouse(s) George Balanchine
(1938-1946; divorced)
Goddard Lieberson
(1946-1977; his death); 2 children
Paul Wolfe
(1991-2003; her death)
Children Peter Lieberson
Jonathan Lieberson

Vera Zorina (January 2, 1917 – April 9, 2003) was a Norwegian ballerina, theatre and film actress, and choreographer.


Vera Zorina was born Eva Brigitta Hartwig in Berlin, Germany. Her father, Fritz Hartwig, was a German lapsed Roman Catholic, and mother, Abigail Johanne Wimpelmann (known as Billie Hartwig), Norwegian and Lutheran. Both were both professional singers. Young Eva was brought up in a small coastal town between Trondheim and Bergen, called Kristiansund North, where she debuted as a dancer at the Festiviteten, the oldest opera house in Norway. She received her education at the Lyceum for Girls in Berlin and was trained in dance by Olga Preobrajenska and Nicholas Legat.[2]


At age 12, she was presented to Max Reinhardt, who cast her in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1929) and Tales of Hoffman (1931). A performance at London's Gaiety Theatre won her an invitation to join the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1933, at which time she adopted the stage name of Vera Zorina. A few years later, she attained a lead role in the London production of On Your Toes (1937) and was seen by American film producer Samuel Goldwyn, who signed her to a seven-year film contract. She appeared in a number of Hollywood movies between 1938 and 1946.[3]

File:Original 1938 playbill from "I Married an Angel" starring Vera Zorina. From the Vera Zorina Collection at Ailina Dance Archives.jpg
Original 1938 playbill from "I Married an Angel" starring Vera Zorina. From the Vera Zorina Collection at Ailina Dance Archives.

One of her most iconic stage roles was in the 1938 Rodgers and Hart musical I Married an Angel. As the title character, she played an exquisite angel who descended from heaven to marry Hungarian banker played by Dennis King, but whose complete lack of human guile presented him with a whole new set of problems. (Jeanette MacDonald had that lead role in the film version.) Starting in 1948, Zorina appeared in Arthur Honegger's Joan of Arc at the Stake, playing the title role in the first American performance with the New York Philharmonic under Charles Münch. She subsequently commanded the role many times, notably in the recorded performance from the Royal Festival Hall in June 1966, with the London Symphony Orchestra under Seiji Ozawa.[4] In the 1970s, Vera Zorina was appointed director of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet (Den Norske Opera & Ballet). Later, she was active with the Lincoln Center as an adviser and director and, for several seasons, directed operas at the Santa Fe Opera in New Mexico. In 1986, she completed her autobiography, Zorina.[5]

Personal life

Zorina was married to choreographer George Balanchine, her first, his second, in 1938; the couple divorced in 1946. She danced in productions he choreographed for both stage and screen, including On Your Toes, a Broadway hit later adapted for the screen by Lawrence Riley.

Her second husband was Columbia Records president Goddard Lieberson, from 1946 until his death on May 29, 1977. They had two sons: Peter Lieberson, a composer, and Jonathan Lieberson. Her final marriage was to harpsichordist Paul Wolfe, from 1991 until 2003, when she died of undisclosed causes at age 86.[6]

Zorina was the grandmother of sisters Elizabeth (Lizzie), Katherine, and Kristina Lieberson, who are now members of the band TEEN.[7]



  2. Vera Zorina biodata at beinecke.library.yale
  3. Vera Zorina obituary in The Independent
  4. Stage Name: Vera Zorina at
  5. Zorina (1986). U.S./Canada publications in Collins Publishers, Toronto and Farrar Straus Giroux, New York City, respectively. Reviewed, The New York Times. November 16, 1986
  6. Vera Zorina profile in the Norwegian American Hall of Fame
  7. Mike Usinger (June 6, 2013). "There's more to TEEN than it seems". Retrieved 2014-11-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Kisselgoff, Anna (April 12, 2003). "Obituary for Vera Zorina". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Koegler, Horst (1982). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Ballet. Oxford Paperback Reference.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links