Verdi-Rigoletto (1982) (NTSC)

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Released 4-Jun-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Opera Booklet
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1982
Running Time 115:58
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (53:48) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jean-Pierre Ponnelle
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Ingvar Wixell
Edita Gruberova
Luciano Pavarotti
Case Flexbox
RPI $36.95 Music Giuseppe Verdi

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I didn't realise this until quite recently when someone pointed it out to me, but 2001 is the 150th anniversary of the premiere of Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice on 11 March 1851. One of Verdi's best known operas, it contains a fairly powerful and tightly structured plot based on a play (Le roi s'amuse) by Victor Hugo (who also wrote Les Miserables), and the libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave. This is a film adaptation of the opera directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle accompanied by the Wiener Philharmoniker conducted by Riccardo Chailly. By film adaptation, I mean it is a performance specially staged and edited for film as opposed to a filmed version of a stage performance. Many of the scenes have been shot "on location" and the film editing features rapid cuts across multiple camera angles and shifts in point-of-views.

    Briefly, the synopsis is as follows. In Act I, Rigoletto (Ingvar Wixell) is a grotesque hunchback who works as a court jester for the Duke of Mantua (Luciano Pavarotti). The Duke is devastatingly handsome, fond of food and wine and seducing as many women as he finds attractive, and has no scruples about ordering the execution of his enemies. Needless to say, his ducal court reflects his libertine, licentious ways and his courtiers (led by none other than Rigoletto himself who is the Duke's favourite) respond to his every whim and fancy and take turns in mocking and humiliating each other. An angry Count Monterone (also played by Ingvar Wixell in a miracle of camera editing) bursts into the court and denounces the Duke for seducing his daughter. He is quickly arrested and sentenced to death, but not before he utters a curse, which is specifically directed at Rigoletto for having engineered the seduction. Rigoletto is profoundly terrified by the curse and becomes remorseful, brooding over his deformed nature which he has compensated for by having a sharp wit which has surely made him many enemies.

    On the way home, he meets a professional assassin called Sparafucile (Ferruccio Furlanetto). At home, he treasures the time with his beautiful daughter Gilda (Edita Gruberova) - who he has kept hidden from the Duke and his courtiers. However, unknown to him, the Duke and Gilda already have eyes for each other. Meanwhile, the courtiers (mistakenly thinking Gilda is Rigoletto's secret mistress) execute an elaborate plan to kidnap Gilda using the unwitting assistance of none other than Rigoletto.

    In Act II, the Duke seduces Gilda, much to the annoyance of Rigoletto, who is held back by the courtiers. He swears vengeance. In Act III, Rigoletto has arranged for Sparafucile to kill the Duke. Sparafucile uses his sister Maddalena (Victoria Vergara) to lure the Duke to Sparafucile's house on the outskirts of town. At the last moment, Gilda - still torn by her feelings for the Duke - offers herself as a sacrifice and Sparafucile kills her instead. Just when Rigoletto is about to throw the supposed body of the Duke (wrapped in a bag) into the river, he hears the distant voice of the Duke singing and he realises that the bag contains his dying daughter. As Gilda dies, Rigoletto cries out that Monterone's curse has finally been fulfilled.

    The highlights for me in this film are the superb singing and orchestral accompaniment. The musicians are particularly sensitive to the dramatic nuances of Verdi's superb musical score and deliver a stirring performance. The duet by Rigoletto and Gilda at the end of Act II and the quartet in Act III featuring the simultaneous singing of four characters each with his/her distinctive personality/mood and melody is superb. However, I can't say I am enamoured by the film adaptation. Director Jean-Pierre Ponnelle applies a rather heavy hand to the dramatic touches and the exaggerated gestures and poses of the operatic stage looks like histrionic over-acting on film. Although some care appears to have spent on make-up and costumes (including bad teeth on Sparafucile), the film seems to be sloppily edited in parts. For example, right at the end, the film repeatedly cuts between Rigoletto on the river at dawn (where the sky is gradually becoming bright) and the exterior of Sparafucile's house by the river, where it is still dark.

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Transfer Quality


    This is a NTSC full frame transfer from the original 35mm film (1.37:1 aspect ratio). I noticed that there is a PAL VHS version of this film - it would have been nice if they also made a PAL version of the DVD but I guess they wanted to make a single DVD for all regions and NTSC is a more universally-playable format.

    In general, this is not a bad transfer. Detail levels are consistent with the age of the film stock (in other words, slightly soft), and the colour saturation is acceptable. Black levels and shadow detail are quite reasonable.

    The film source is reasonably clean, and there aren't any noticeable instances of film-to-video artefacts - apart from slight Gibb's effect ringing on the opening titles which is commonly encountered on many DVDs.

    The film has a number of subtitle tracks: English, French, German and Chinese. I turned on the English subtitle track briefly - the translation of the libretto is reasonable and about on par with what you are likely to get in the surtitles at the opera.

    This is a single sided dual layered disc (RSDL) and the layer change occurs in the interval between Acts I and II at 53:48. Needless to say, the layer change is not obtrusive at all.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Surprisingly, we actually get two audio tracks on this disc (both in Italian): Linear PCM 48/16 and a remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 track (448 Kb/s).

    I listened to the Linear PCM track for Act I which seemed reasonably decent (somewhere between VHS Hi-Fi and CD quality). I then switched to Dolby Digital 5.1 for Acts II and III and had a pleasant surprise. The Dolby Digital track, mastered at a much higher level than the PCM track, actually sounds more dynamic and "punchy" than the PCM track. In comparison the PCM track sounds rather "flat" and uninteresting, although the singers do sound more natural (the voices are slightly on the booming side on the Dolby Digital track). The Dolby Digital track also features more reverb than the Linear PCM track.

    There are no audio synchronisation issues on this disc. "Dialogue" quality is quite high and most of the singers have good enunciation. I can clearly pick out the Italian words in the singing.

    There's even some attempt in using the rear surround channels. Although the rear channels are mostly used for ambience, we get to hear occasional Foley effects (mainly footsteps) panning from rear to front. The soundtrack misses out on a great opportunity to mix in some dramatic thunderstorm effects in Act III but unfortunately we only get an orchestra imitating a thunderstorm.

    The subwoofer is mainly used to enhance the low end of the sound track. The Dolby Digital track sounds slightly more "bassy" compared to the PCM track.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras present on this disc (unless you consider some promotional stills of other titles in the Deutsche Grammophon DVD classical catalogue as an extra). Even the menu does not appear unless you specifically press the MENU button on the DVD player - the main feature starts automatically upon disc insertion and the player actually stops at the end instead of going to the menu.


    Static and full frame. You can choose between English and Chinese as the menu language.

Discography - DVD Releases

    This lists some other DVD titles available from Deutsche Grammophon.


    This is a 36 page booklet providing:

    The text of the booklet is provided in three languages: English, French and German.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This is a Region 0 NTSC disc and is presumably the same around the world.


    This is a film adaptation of Verdi's opera Rigoletto, featuring some superb performances by a fairly strong set of singers backed by the Wiener Philharmoniker conducted by Riccardo Chailly. Unfortunately, I find the film adaptation to be somewhat cheesy. The opera is presented on a bare bones DVD with acceptable audio and video transfers (including the surprising inclusion of a remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track).

Ratings (out of 5)


© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Monday, August 20, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-626D, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3300
SpeakersFront and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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