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Vercelli

Vercelli, is a city and comune of 46.552 inhabitants in the Province of Vercelli, northern Italy. One of the oldest urban sites in northern Italy, it was founded, according to most historians, around the year 600 BC; the city is situated on the river Sesia in the plain of the river Po between Turin. It is an important centre for the cultivation of rice, is surrounded by rice paddies, which are flooded in the summer; the climate is typical of the Po Valley with cold, foggy winters and oppressive heat during the summer months. Rainfall is most prevalent during the autumn; the languages spoken in Vercelli are Piedmontese. The world's first university funded by public money was established in Vercelli in 1228, but was closed in 1372. Today it has a university of literature and philosophy as a part of the Università del Piemonte Orientale and a satellite campus of the Politecnico di Torino. Vercellae was the capital of a Ligurian tribe; the imperial magister militum Flavius Stilicho annihilated the Goths there 500 years later.

It was half ruined in St. Jerome's time. After the Lombard invasion it belonged to the Duchy of Ivrea. From 885 it was under the jurisdiction of the prince-bishop, a Count of the Empire, it became an independent commune in 1120, joined the first and second Lombard leagues. Its statutes are among the most interesting of those of the medieval republics. In 1197 they abolished the servitude of the glebe. In 1228 the University of Pavia was transferred to Vercelli, where it remained till the fourteenth century, but without gaining much prominence. In 1307, Fra Dolcino, the leader of the Dulcinian burned at the stake. During the troubles of the 13th century it fell into the power of the Della Torre of Milan, of the Marquesses of Monferrato, who appointed Matteo I Visconti captain; the Tizzoni and Avogadri disputed the city from 1301 to 1334. The Guelphs were expelled several times, enabling the Marquess of Monferrato to take Vercelli, which voluntarily placed itself under the Viscount of Milan in 1334.

In 1373, Bishop Giovanni Fieschi expelled the Visconti. Facino Cane, profiting by the strife between Giovanni Maria and Filippo Maria Visconti, took Vercelli, but was driven out by Theodore II of Montferrat, from whom the city passed to the dukes of Savoy. In 1499 and 1553 Vercelli was captured by the French, in 1616 and 1678 by the Spaniards. In 1704 it sustained an energetic siege by the French, who failed to destroy the fortress, after which it shared the fortunes of Savoy. In 1821 Vercelli rose in favour of the Constitution. Vercelli is home to numerous relics of the Roman period, e.g. an amphitheatre, hippodrome and many important inscriptions, some of which are Christian. There are seven noteworthy towers in the town, most important are the Torre dell’Angelo, which rears up over the old market square, the Torre di Città in Via Gioberti. Vercelli Cathedral adorned with precious pillars and mosaics, was erected and enlarged by Saint Eusebius of Vercelli, to whom it was dedicated after his death.

It was remodeled as of the ninth century, radically changed in the eighteenth by Count Alfieri. Like the other churches in the city, it contains valuable paintings those of Gaudenzio Ferrari, Gerolamo Giovenone and Bernardino Lanino, who were natives of Vercelli; the cathedral's Capitulary Library contains valuable manuscripts. Its religious texts include an evangelarium of the fourth century, its secular texts include the Novels of Justinian. It contains the famous Vercelli Book — an Old English manuscript which includes the celebrated alliterative poem The Dream of the Rood; the civil archives are not less important, contain documents dating from 882. The Basilica di Sant'Andrea was erected by Cardinal Guala Bicchieri in 1219. Together with the old Cistercian monastery, it is one of the most beautiful and best-preserved Romanesque monuments in Italy. Among other noteworthy churches in the city is the Santa Maria Maggiore. Vercelli's synagogue, an example of Moorish Revival architecture, is located at Via Foà 70 and the city's Jewish cemetery at Corso Randaccio 24.

On 23 November 2013, after what was believed to be an antisemitic act, two swastikas were found sprayed on its walls. The Institute of the Beaux-Arts contains paintings by Vercellese artists. Ancient charitable institutions continue, such as the hospital founded by Cardinal Guala Bicchieri, which has an annual revenue of more than 600,000 lire. Vercelli is the seat of the Viotti International Music Competition. In 2007, 44,475 people were recorded as residing in Vercelli, of whom 47.3% were male and 52.7% were female. Minors totaled 14.41% of the population and pensioners 25.83%.

American Opera Society

The American Opera Society was a New York City based musical organization that presented concert and semi-staged performances of operas between 1951 and 1970. The company was influential in sparking and perpetuating the post World War II bel canto revival through a number of lauded productions of heard works by Gioachino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti, Vincenzo Bellini; the AOS presented many operas to the American public for the first time, including the United States premieres of Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd, Giuseppe Verdi's Giovanna d'Arco, George Frideric Handel's Hercules and Hector Berlioz's Les troyens to name just a few. The American Opera Society was founded in 1950 by two young musicians at the Juilliard School: Allen Sven Oxenburg and Arnold Gamson. Oxenburg served as the AOS's Artistic Director throughout the company's entire history. Gamson served as the AOS's Music Director and principal conductor between 1951–1960 and returned to conduct several performances with the AOS in the late 1960s.

Composer Samuel Barlow notably served as the President of the board during much of the 1950s. The AOS was envisioned as an organization to perform Renaissance music and baroque operas in the space for which those works were written, in the homes of the rich; the company's first production was Claudio Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea for an audience of 50 in the drawing room of a mansion on 5th Avenue in New York City in 1951. These smaller concerts became so popular that the AOS had to move to larger venues using Carnegie Hall as the company's home. Gamson conducted all of the company's performances during the 1950s. Many of these operas, such as Christoph Willibald Gluck's Le cadi dupé, had never been heard in the United States before. Oxenburg was a shrewd judge of talent and he provided many notable singers with their first opportunity to perform on the New York stage. Singers who make their New York debut with AOS included Teresa Berganza, Montserrat Caballé, Eileen Farrell, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Maureen Forrester, Marilyn Horne, Leontyne Price, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Joan Sutherland, Carol Toscano, Jon Vickers among others.

Oxenburg presented a lauded production of Bellini's Il pirata with Maria Callas as Imogene in 1959. He had had the presence of mind to approach Callas with a contract after her contract with the Metropolitan Opera had been canceled earlier that year. During the AOS's final season, Beverly Sills sang the first New York production of Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment in 27 years in February 1970. In 1970 Oxenburg was forced to disband the AOS due to financial reasons

Condemned: Criminal Origins

Condemned: Criminal Origins is a first-person survival horror video game developed by Monolith Productions and published by Sega. It was launched worldwide in 2005 on the Xbox 360, with a Microsoft Windows version released in 2006. Condemned: Criminal Origins places an emphasis on melee combat and puzzle solving, including searching for fingerprints and gathering evidence. Upon release, Condemned was met with moderate to good reviews by many critics. Many reviewers cited its lack of progression as the game's biggest fault; as a reprieve, the game's solid controls and fresh approach to the horror genre were praised. A sequel, entitled Condemned 2: Bloodshot, was released in 2008 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Other media forms include an internet prequel and a planned film adaptation to expand the Condemned franchise; the developers have cited films such as The Silence of the Lambs and Seven as inspiration for the game. Although the game is played from a first-person perspective, it is not a traditional first-person shooter.

Firearms are somewhat uncommon. Unlike many other games from a first-person perspective, firearms are deadly killing enemies with a single shot; the guns that can be found, or taken from enemies, are only good for as long as the current ammo in the magazine lasts. To complicate matters further, enemies operate firearms from the same ammo reserve, meaning once the enemy has been dispatched, the player only gets what ammo was left over from the fight; this encourages players to attack enemies carrying firearms quickly. The focus of the experience is on improvised melee, allowing players and enemies to collect, or pull, weapons from their surrounding environments, such as pipes, locker doors, 2x4s; the developers of the game described the combat as'visceral'. A quick-kick is available for attacking without, or alongside, a hand-held weapon, attacks can be unleashed in different directions and configurations, such as left to right or overhead, but combat is notable for not utilizing a combo system, unlike similar titles such as The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay.

In many cases, blocking is necessary both before and after landing a successful hit. The player can perform "finishing moves" when the opponent is on his knees, such as headbutting or breaking their neck; the artificial intelligence displayed by enemies requires the player to think on their feet a great deal more than similar games. Enemies are able to flee and hide often surprising the player by appearing from a concealed spot. Enemies can effectively feint, in order to trick the player into blocking at an inopportune time, leaving themselves open for the real attack. Although there are sharp weapons in the game, one can not dismember enemies. In fact, the player can never wield an actual knife or sword, with the exception being in the School level, where the player has brief access to a meat cleaver; some melee weapons fall under the class of entry tool, act as keys in the gameworld, allowing the player to access new areas or locked boxes. The player has a taser gun which when used stuns the target, does some damage and allows the player to seize the stunned enemy's weapon.

In the game, Lieutenant Rosa gives the player a new upgraded taser, much more powerful, causing the enemy's legs to give out. One shot after that will kill any enemy. Common uses for it are safely attacking enemies with guns, countering an immediate attack and obtaining the chance to make a free hit. However, it has to recharge between shots so it cannot be used to bypass the game's system of fighting enemies; the entire game takes place in derelict urban environments, with minimum lighting. The player must use a flashlight to navigate through the game's darkened environments, while dealing with frequent enemy ambushes. Near the end of the game the player loses both the taser; this means all strategies which required the taser become impossible and the only personal light source becomes burning planks which means carrying a gun reduces visibility. This forces the player to rely on blocking and evasion for defense and close range attacks for offense. Condemned directly involves the player in crime scene investigations, offering the ability to, at the press of a context-sensitive button, call upon a suite of forensic tools to find and record evidence.

The player character is linked to an FBI lab via his mobile phone throughout the investigation, allowing remote examination and analysis by his support worker, Rosa. Crime scene evidence can be used to solve puzzles, allowing the player to pass impassable barriers, provide clues to the overall mysteries of the story. Examples of evidence include fingerprints, fibers, particles, markings/etchings, imprints, small objects and body parts; the player character is gifted with the instinctual ability to detect when forensic evidence is nearby, allowing players to bring up the detection and collection tools when appropriate. However, the "instincts" of the character only vaguely highlight the area in which the evidence resides.