Vienna already has 160 museums, ranging from the Kunsthistorische Museum with its astonishing wealth of Old Masters to others devoted to funerals and chocolate, so why did the opening of a new one last week cause such a stir in Austria?

Vienna already has 160 museums, ranging from the Kunsthistorische Museum with its astonishing wealth of Old Masters to others devoted to funerals and chocolate, so why did the opening of a new one last week cause such a stir in Austria?

The first reason was that its owner is His Serene Highness Prince Hans-Adam II, the head of state of Liechtenstein, the tiny, wealthy principality nestling between Switzerland and Austria, and his arrival in Vienna to launch the Liechtenstein Museum was also a state visit.

The second was that it restores to the city one of the world's most important private art collections with a particular focus on the Baroque period. The paintings had been on display in Vienna since 1807, but after the Anschluss in 1938, when Nazi Germany absorbed Austria, the Liechtenstein family transferred their place of residence and their art works to the principality's capital, Vaduz.

Unlike our Royal Family with its fitful collecting habits, the Liechtensteins have proved consistent patrons and connoisseurs of the fine arts since the 17th century. Prince Hans-Adam continues in this tradition: for example, the very fine Portrait of an Unknown Man by Franz Hals was bought only last year.

A particular strength is Rubens - there are more than 30 here - including the supremely sensuous Venus in Front of the Mirror and acute portraits of the painter's children. There are also fine works by Cranach, Altdorfer, Van Dyck, Rembrandt and Paris Bordone. The collection of bronzes includes work by Mantegna, Giambologna, Sansovino and Susini.

Even without its contents, the palace itself would be well worth a visit. When it was built at the beginning of the 18th century this garden palace in Rossau was intended as a summer retreat on the edge of the city. The Italian architects Rossi and Martinelli delivered a mighty Roman Baroque building, decorated with tremendous ceiling paintings (by Andrea Pozzo) and elaborate stucco. Among the finest works in the collection are two superb views of the palace made by Bellotto (Canaletto's nephew) in 1760. The Liechtenstein Museum, Fürstengasse, Vienna, is open daily, except Tuesday, 9-8. Entry is €10 (£7). www.liechtensteinmuseum.at

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Booking has opened for July's Aix-en-Provence Festival. One of the new productions this year is Handel's Hercules, not as well known as others in the composer's canon, but with some of his most dramatic music. The celebrated early music specialist William Christie will conduct Les Arts Florissants (the orchestra he founded 25 years ago) and the producer will be the often controversial Luc Bondy. The much-admired young English tenor Toby Spence will sing Hyllus.

Other operas include Prokofiev's The Love of of Three Oranges, Verdi's La Traviata, Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail and a new opera, Hanjo, by the Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa. On 13 July there will be a free simulcast of The Love of Three Oranges in the Jas de Bouffan and Parc Jourdan. Information and online booking at www.festival-aix.com

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