The visual vocabulary of cubist painter Astriarkh Lentulov, scene and costume designer for Tales of Hoffmann, hearkens forward to Georgy Yakulov’s kaleidoscopic designs for Princess Brambilla. Lentulov’s colliding planes also resonate with the fragmented perspective of Eisenstein and with the geometric scenic elements in Vakhtangov’s Turandot.
In the words of Igor Ilinsky, whose memory of Lentulov’s design was lifelong:
“The artist painted onto the everyday muslin from which the costumes were sewn. There was ordinary theater canvas on the stage. On it was cut out a large attic window through which moonlight poured onto spectral scenery. The window was cut out crookedly and this gave the impression of an off-kilter, wretched attic, empty, somewhat cold in its fantastical theatricality. The entire action of the opera took place as if through the prism of the distorting mirror of a made-up Hoffmannian fairy-tale life for grown-ups.”*
This costume design, with its background of blues, pinks, and whites, reveals the set’s vivid, colliding, deliberately skewed planes. In the foreground stands an actor in gray with an enormous bowtie, his eyes replaced by dark blue smudges that stand out against his unnaturally white, painted skin. In the production, the actors wore dark blue paint around their eyes.
See book: p. 75
*Igor’ Il’inskii, Sam o sebe (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1984), 157-58.