|Born||Eva Brigitta Hartwig
January 2, 1917
|Died||April 9, 2003
Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S.
musical theatre actress
|Spouse(s)||George Balanchine (1938-1946; divorced)
Goddard Lieberson (1946-1977; his death); 2 children
Paul Wolfe (1991-2003; her death)
Vera Zorina was born Eva Brigitta Hartwig in Berlin, Germany. Her father, Fritz Hartwig, was a German lapsed Roman Catholic, and her mother, Abigail Johanne Wimpelmann (known as Billie Hartwig), was Norwegian and Lutheran. Fritz and Billie Hartwig 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.
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.
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. 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.
Zorina was George Balanchine's second wife and he her first husband. They were married in 1938 and 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. With him, she 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.
- Seine Freundin Annette (1930)
- The Goldwyn Follies (1938)
- On Your Toes (1939)
- I Was an Adventuress (1940)
- Louisiana Purchase (1941)
- Star Spangled Rhythm (1942)
- Follow the Boys (1944)
- Lover Come Back (1946)
- Vera Zorina biodata at beinecke.library.yale
- Vera Zorina obituary in The Independent
- Stage Name: Vera Zorina at streetswing.com
- 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
- Vera Zorina profile in the Norwegian American Hall of Fame
- Koegler, Horst The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Ballet (Oxford Paperback Reference. 1982)