First let me very briefly dispose of the purely musical aspect of this 2001 (not 1985 as indicated by Amazon) Royal Opera production staged by David McVicar. With any newly acquired DVD of an opera or ballet, I usually like to simply listen to the soundtrack without the distraction of the visual action, either soon after watching it the first time or sometimes even before, so that I can better concentrate on the music alone. Few DVD productions can match the best available on CD, and this Rigoletto is no exception. Without going into a detailed analysis, my overall reaction was that it's okay, but not particularly good; I quickly found much to be unimpressed with, or even dislike about, the conducting and each of the principals; and the shouts and clatter of the crowd in the first act intrude far more than the composer's intended rising and falling murmurs one would normally expect. All the same, granting artistic license in the interpretation of the score, this is by no means a poor rendering.
Turning to the visual presentation, I must first confess to generally preferring a traditional 19th Century look in most operas, but here Michael Vale's stark and spare (and uniformly ugly) sets, especially the torn chain-link fence, struck me as effectively symbolizing the cruelty and terror of Verdi's 'Rigoletto'.
But McVicar's reinterpretation does violence to the story itself, and its characters. Both the embittered jester Rigoletto, as stunted and twisted emotionally as he is physically, and his naive and innocent daughter Gilda, remain basically true to their proper roles. However, both the Duke and his courtiers are badly misread. The Duke of Mantua is a narcissist, a careless cynical libertine with the power of his 16th Century ducal court to command at least a facade of fealty from his courtiers. 'La donna e mobile' -- woman is fickle -- is meant to be supremely ironic, since it is the Duke himself, not at all the various women to whom he turns his attentions, who is 'fickle.' He makes a career of 'seducing' (in its older Don Juan sense implying a large degree of what we now call rape) every woman who might catch his fancy. We are given to understand that he has so 'seduced' many or most of the wives and daughters of the noblemen of his court. These courtiers, helpless to protest except under pain of imprisonment or death (e.g., Monterone), humor their Duke by encouraging and facilitating new seductions if for no other reason than to distract him from their own women whom they naturally have no desire to share (e.g., Ceprano). This is why -- despite Warwick Thomson's claim of its being "by no means gratuitous" in his Amazon review -- McVicar's opening orgy of flagrant bawds, improbably egged on by their menfolk, makes hash of the story, and emasculates the more subtle ironic horror of 'La donna e mobile.'
I have no problem with bared breasts, full frontal nudity, grotesque sexual play or nude simulated sex onstage, when it serves some purpose beyond merely gratuitous titillation -- and particularly when it doesn't throw the sense of the story out of whack. Here McVicar in his reaching for the shock of the new seems to have borrowed a page or two from 1969's 'Oh! Calcutta!' Today when we need only turn on a computer or go to a neighborhood movie theater to find full frontal nudity and explicit sex, there seems to still persist a smugness about how openminded we can be on encountering this sort of thing in the Royal Opera House. From McVicar's interviews, it's clear that he's toying with his audience, sexing-up his productions to see what he can get away with.
After writing this I have come upon Melanie Eskenazi's professional review online, which finally breaks from the crowd in not fawning over this 'Rigoletto'; she makes different points and in more detail, but I agree with her entirely.
Addendum: If you're really looking for NC-17 opera complete with full nudity, passionate seduction, violent degradation, rape, and murder, where it all is actually integral to the story rather than gratuitously twisting the story out of shape, check out Petr Weigl's film of Shostakovich's 'Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk', set to the definitive Rostropovich recording with Galina Vishnevskaya, Nicolai Gedda and the London Philharmonic. Portions of the musical score are cut for the film, and the Russian soundtrack is lip-synched by Czech actors, but the synchronization is expertly done, and the film is emotionally stunning in a way that entirely escapes McVicar's 'Rigoletto'. Amazon also lists two other productions of this opera, but I haven't yet seen either of these.