During a short trip to Paris, Gluck was introduced to French opera, a genre wherein he would later greatly succeed. After returning to England, he composed his opera seria, La Seiramide riconosciuta (1748). Gluck later settled in Vienna in 1758, where he was appointed chapel-master by the empress Maria Theresa. Two successful works in Rome also earned him a position in the order of the knighthood from the pope. Gluck desperately wanted to reform opera and, between 1757 and 1762, his plans for the reform were expanded upon, though he still composed several works in his old style, such as the ballet Don Juan (1761). Pieces that show his new style include his Orfeo ed Euridice (1762).
Gluck’s new ideas about opera were probably influenced by his new librettist, Calzabigi. Gluck stated during this time, “I shall try to reduce music to its real function, that of seconding poetry by intensifying the expression of sentiments and the interest of situations without interrupting the action by needless ornament.” These new ideas did not go over well with the Viennese public and, as a result, his second classical music-drama, Aleste (1767) was not very successful. Despite its lack of popularity by the Viennese, Orfeo ed Euridice is considered one of Gluck’s best and most inspired works, though some critics have found that the work is thoroughly ruined by the happy ending; Gluck also made a French version in 1774 (Orphée et Eurydice). Aleste contains some of Gluck’s grandest music, but there is not a proper climax in the Italian version, limiting its impact. There is also a French version of this work, which differs greatly from the original as Gluck tried to fix all the problems. The third opera in which Gluck collaborated on with Calzabigi is Panide e Elena (1770). These works marked the beginning of the greatest period of Gluck’s career.