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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Thr 632

Vera Zorina papers

Papers of ballet dancer, actress, choreographer and opera director Vera Zorina


  • 1910-2001
  • Majority of material found within 1933-2001

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English, Norwegian, German, and French.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

Most of this collection is not housed at the Harvard Theatre Collection but is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.


73 linear feet (153 boxes)

The Vera Zorina papers include a variety of material documenting her personal life and her career in ballet, theater and opera. The collection includes: private and business correspondence of Vera Zorina, her husband Goddard Lieberson, her mother Bille Hartwig, and her family; manuscripts, typescripts and galley proofs of Zorina's autobiography and other compositions, her speeches and lectures; screenplays and movies scripts; programs of ballets, musicals, operas and other theatricals projects, as well as programs of productions and concerts attended by Zorina; production records of recording sound albums, of operas, and TV productions directed by Zorina, including scripts, stage plans and production notes, and promotional material; scores of musicals and operas and narration scripts of roles performed by Zorina; audiovisual material; legal and financial papers; biographical material, and memorabilia.

Series I. Correspondence: Letters between Vera Zorina and producers, writers, composers, directors, choreographers, and dancers, actors and opera singers, photographers and artists, fashion designers and architects, catholic nuns, friars and bishops, religious centers and monasteries, as well as doctors, legal firms, publishers of newspapers, magazines and books, various charity organisations, orchestras, opera, ballet and theatre companies, fans, friends and family. The series includes extensive correspondence between Vera Zorina and her second husband Goddard Lieberson from the period of their acquaintance and courtship throughout their life together until his death in 1977, correspondence with her mother Bille Hartwig, her sons, Peter and Jonathan, her grand-daughters, Katherine, Christina and Elizabeth and her third husband, Paule Wolfe.

Series II. Compositions: Manuscript and typescript drafts of 1st and 2nd volumes of Zorina's autobiography, essays, short stories and poems, lectures and speeches. Also includes publisher's proofs and galley proofs and promotional material.

Series III. Compositions by others: Screenplays and movie scripts for productions featuring Zorina, and other works.

Series IV. Production records: Production notes, memoranda, stage-plans, scripts, publicity material, research notes, liner notes, photographs, galley-proofs, and correspondence for theatrical production and sound recording albums.

Series V. Audiovisual material: Film reels of movies featuring Zorina, video recordings of various CBS productions, and audio recordings of concerts, rehearsals and interviews with Zorina.

Series VI. Music scores: Printed and manuscript scores of operas and musicals featuring Zorina.

Series VII. Programs: Programs of ballets, theatrical productions and operas featuring Zorina, and performances attended by her.

Series VIII Financial records: Records related to Zorina's business and personal finances including correspondence, contracts, agreements, bills, financial statements, legal papers concerning her property, insurance, and tax records, and her will.

Series IX. Biographical material: Material related to Zorina's household including records and objects.

Biographical / Historical

Vera Zorina (1917-2003) was a ballet dancer, a movie and musical theater actress, a choreographer, and an opera director. She was born Eva Brigitta Hartwig in Berlin on January 2, 1917 to a German father, Frederick Hartwig, and Norwegian mother, Bille Hartwig (née Abigael Johanne Wimpelmann). In 1933 she joined Col. W. de Basil's Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo where her stage name was changed to Vera Zorina. She was married to George Balanchine from 1938 to 1946. After divorcing him she married composer and CBS artistic director Goddard Lieberson (1911-1977) with whom she had two sons, composer Peter Lieberson (1946-2011), and philosopher, writer and journalist Jonathan Lieberson (1949-1989). In 1991 she married harpsichordist Paul Wolfe.

Upon her second marriage she left the stage, but returned in the 1950s as a performer and opera narrator. In 1968 Zorina began directing opera productions at Santa Fe and the New York City Opera, as well as directing and producing musicals, ballets and television programs in Oslo, Norway. In the 1970s she served as director with the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet in Oslo. In 1976 she was elected Director General of Norwegian television but she resigned in 1977 upon the death of her second husband. In her later years, she produced recording albums, served on the board of directors at CBS and Santa Fe Opera, gave lectures and classes, published an autobiography, and wrote poetry, short stories and essays on dance and musical theater.

Among her most famous roles are leading parts in musical comedies On your toes and I married an angel by Rogers and Hart, the part of Ariel in Margaret Webster's Broadway production of The Tempest, Joan of Arc in the Honegger's oratorio Jeanne d'Arc au Bucher, and Persephone in Stravinsky's melodrama Persephone.


Organised into the following series:
  1. I. Correspondence
  2. II. Compositions
  3. III. Compositions by others
  4. IV. Production records: A. Theatrical and television production records
  5. IV. Production records: B. Sound recording albums production records
  6. V. Audiovisual material: A. Videotapes and film
  7. V. Audiovisual material: B. Audiotapes and audiocassettes
  8. VI. Music scores
  9. VII. Programs
  10. VIII. Financial records
  11. IX. Biographical material

Special Equipment Required for Access:

This collection includes audiotape, videotape and film materials that require special equipment. Contact Houghton Public Services staff for further information.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository, b

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2008MT-103. Gift of Vera Zorina Estate, received: 2009 June 1.

Separated Materials

Promotional copies of long-playing records and compact discs produced by CBS Masterworks, photographs, clippings and non-annotated printed material and papers of Goddard Lieberson were separated from this collection. Promotional copies of long-playing records, compact discs, and clippings were discarded. Non-annotaed printed material was incorporated into the Harvard Theatre Collection book collection, duplicates were discarded. Vera Zorina photographs and papers of Goddard Lieberson will be cataloged separately.

General note

Much of this collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. See access restrictions below for additional information.

Processing Information

Processed by: Irina Klyagin with the assistance of Kimberley Hula
Link to catalog
Zorina, Vera. Vera Zorina papers, 1910-2001: Guide.
Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.

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