The complications and excesses in the highly melodramatic story of Rigoletto almost define the word "opera" for many people, and the name of this opera's composer, Giuseppi Verdi, is one to conjure with. Many cinematically inclined opera fans had high hopes for this 1983 production directed by the scenarist Jean-Pierre Ponelle and featuring the incomparable vocal gifts of Luciano Pavarotti. However, even in opera, and particularly when it is filmed, a minimum of believability and acting ability are desirable commodities. By all reports, this production failed on those two counts, though musically it is first-rate. Hard-core opera enthusiasts will still find much to enjoy, though the movie is not accessible to general audiences. The tragic story begins with Rigoletto (Ingvar Wixell), the hunchbacked court jester for the amorously inclined young Duke of Mantua (Pavrotti), showing callous disregard for a father's sensibilities when the Duke ruins the reputation of one of his courtier's daughters. When the girl's angry father is led away in chains, he curses the jester to suffer as he has suffered. Since Rigoletto has hidden away his beautiful daughter from the court, and the Duke has somehow managed to see her anyway, this curse soon becomes a reality.
by Clarke Fountain synopsis