Vera Zorina was born Eva Brigitta Hartwig in Berlin, Germany. Her father Fritz was a German and her mother Billie Hartwig was Norwegian. Both were professional singers. Zorina was brought up in Kristiansund 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 but was trained in dance by Olga Preobrajenska and Nicholas Legat.
She was presented to Max Reinhardt at age 12 who cast her in his A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1929) and Tales of Hoffman (1931). A performance at London’s Gaiety Theatre led to her entrance into the company of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1933. She changed her stage name to Vera Zorina when she joined the Ballet Russe. She won a lead role in the London company of On Your Toes (1937) and was seen by American film producer Samuel Goldwyn, who signed her to a seven year film contract. Between 1938 and 1946, she would appear in a number of Hollywood movie productions.
Starting in 1948, Zorina was associated with Arthur Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake, in which she played the title role in the first American performance with the New York Philharmonic under Charles Münch. She subsequently played 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 with the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet (Den Norske Opera & Ballet). In later years, 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, Vera Zorina completed her autobiography entitled Zorina (New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux. 1986).
She was George Balanchine’s second wife; they were married from 1938 to 1946. She danced in productions he choreographed, both on the stage and screen, including On Your Toes, a Broadway hit later adapted for the screen by Lawrence Riley.
She was also married to Columbia Records president Goddard Lieberson from 1946 until his death on May 29, 1977, by whom she had two sons: Peter Lieberson, a composer, and Jonathan Lieberson. Her final marriage was to Paul Wolfe from 1991 until her death 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)