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At the beginning of the story, Candide is chased away from his uncle's home after he is caught kissing and fondling Cunégonde. Shortly afterwards, Cunégonde's family is attacked by a band of marauding soldiers and she is taken prisoner. However, Cunégonde soon becomes the mistress of two wealthy Portuguese who decide to share her between them. Candide kills the two men and he, Cunégonde and the Old Woman (Cunégonde's servant) flee to Buenos Aires.
There, Cunégonde becomes the mistress of the provincial governor. Since Candide is wanted for the murders of the two Portuguese, he is forced to leave her in Buenos Aires. However he vows to find her and marry her. Finally, near the end of the novel, Candide finds Cunégonde in Istanbul, but she has lost her beauty, and is now very irritable and unfortunately very shallow-minded. Candide reluctantly agrees to marry her.
While Cunégonde may be derived from Cunigunde of Luxemburg, the name is also a pun on French and Latin terms for female genitalia and buttocks.(Latin:Cunnus "Cunt" and French:Cul "Arse") [clarification needed]
In the 1956 operetta written by Leonard Bernstein, Cunégonde is a soprano, who sings one of the most difficult arias written for the theatre: "Glitter and Be Gay". The role has been portrayed by skilled actresses such as Barbara Cook, who originated the role in 1956, Madeline Kahn, Kristin Chenoweth, June Anderson, Harolyn Blackwell, and Maureen Brennan, who received a Tony Award Nomination and won the Theatre World Award for her performance in the 1974 Broadway revival.
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