Vera Zorina, dancer-actress who starred in ballets, films and musicals choreographed by first husband George Balanchine, died April 9 at her home in Santa Fe, N.M. She was 86.
She was also prominent in social circles, not only for her glamour and culture but in light of her connections. After Balanchine, she was married to Goddard Lieberson, president of CBS Records; after he died in 1977, she wed harpsichordist Paul Wolfe. In 1990, the couple moved to Santa Fe, where she was an opera director for several orgs including famed Santa Fe Opera.
She was born Eva Brigitta Hartwig in Berlin to professional singers and began studying ballet early. After moving to London, she starred with Anton Dolin in the 1933 West End production of “Ballerina.” The next year, her professional name was changed to Vera Zorina by the director of the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, who brought her into the company.
Master choreographer Leonide Massine (with whom she was involved in a menage a trois at age 18, according to her 1986 autobio) cast her in “Le Beau Danube” and “Les Presages,” and she was featured in Nijinska’s experimental “Les Noces.” She also was a hit in the 1937 London production of musical “On Your Toes.”
That led to Broadway and Hollywood. She appeared in MGM’s film version of “On Your Toes” as well as “I Was an Adventuress” and “Star-Spangled Rhythm” but more importantly 1938’s “The Goldwyn Follies,” which brought her together with Balanchine, whom she married at the end of that year. Other films included “Follow the Boys” and Bob Hope starrer “Louisiana Purchase,” adapted from a Broadway show Balanchine choreographed.
Also for Balanchine, she appeared in Broadway musicals including “I Married an Angel” and “Dream With Music” as well as “Tempest” and again to ballet in Balanchine’s “Apollo.” Much later she was a performer-narrator in dramatic oratorios.
She is survived by composer son Peter Lieberson and three granddaughters; son Jonathan Lieberson died in 1989.