Rushdie wrote the novel after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa, or religious decree, condemning him to death for allegedly anti-Islamic sentiments in his book The Satanic Verses. Haroun, which originated as bedtime stories that Rushdie told to his son, is a parable in which the storyteller Rashid loses his ability to spin tales, and his son sets out to recover it.
"The novel is a cry against the suppression of the imagination and free speech," Wuorinen said. "So it has a kind of underlying social or political message. [But] the tone of the book is uniformly light-hearted, even thought Rushdie was under mortal threat at the time he wrote it."
The opening-night cast includes Heather Buck as Haroun, Peter Strummer as Rashid, and Heather Johnson as Rashid's wife, Soraya. British poet James Fenton wrote the libretto; British theater and opera director Mark Lamos directs. City Opera music director George Manahan is the conductor.