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A keyed brass instrument of the bugle family with a baritone range that was the structural precursor of the bass saxophone and was replaced by the tuba in orchestras.

[French : Greek ophis, snake (from its resemblance to the serpent, a musical instrument) + Greek klēis, klēid-, key.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


(Instruments) music an obsolete keyed wind instrument of bass pitch
[C19: from French ophiclēide, from Greek ophis snake + kleis key]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
References in classic literature ?
The army consisted of a magnificent band that also did duty on the stage, where it was quite pleasant to see the worthy fellows marching in Turkish dresses with rouge on and wooden scimitars, or as Roman warriors with ophicleides and trombones--to see them again, I say, at night, after one had listened to them all the morning in the Aurelius Platz, where they performed opposite the cafe where we breakfasted.
Gardner had the CBSO playing out of the palm of his hand, Zoe Beyers (how lovely to see her back) leading strings which so often evoked the soundworld of the composer's Aida, flutes swaying like seraphims, and heavy brass, including Graham Sibley's splendid cimbasso (should have been an ophicleide, really) portentously strident.
V.": "why are the voices placed in the section on wind instruments, after the serpent and ophicleide? ...
A Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall B Clarissa Dickson Wright C Anthony Worrall Thompson D Rick Stein QUESTION 7 - for 7 points: The ophicleide is an old instrument of which family?
The range of each part is fairly moderate (though each has extended sections of playing with limited rests) with the possible exception of the "ophicleide" part, which, if played on tuba would sit high in the range, and likely above what would be comfortable for most high school and beginning collegiate tubists.
THERE may be no such thing as a free lunch, but there is a chance to enjoy an hour's free lunchtime music next Thursday - either at the Lit & Phil, Westgate Road, at 1.10pm, where Mary Houlton and Erla Nolso give a vocal recital, or in the King's Hall of Newcastle University, also at 1.10pm, when Anthony George presents a fascinating lecture-recital, Taming of the Beast, featuring early wind instruments including monstrous ancestors of the tuba such as the serpent and ophicleide. For more listings visit www.whatsonne.co.uk, click on Music, then Music News.
These ensembles included: flute, bassoon, bass viol, clarinet, oboe, serpent, ophicleide, bugle, vamp-horn (megaphone), guitar, banjo, drums, concertina and tin-whistle.
Refractaire, quiconque n'a pas pied dans la vie, n'a pas une profession, un etat, un metier, qui ne peut pas se dire quelque chose, ophicleide, ebeniste, notaire, docteur ou cordonnier, qui n'a pour tout bagage que sa manie [...] Refractaires, enfin, tous ces gens qui ont des metiers non classes dans le Bottin: inventeur, poete, tribun, philosophe ou heros.
They played admirably some selections from popular operas; a bass cantata on the ophicleide was executed with considerable talent.
A badly cracked ophicleide, which also looked past reasonable repair, sold for [pounds]472.
His scoring is for double woodwind (he had four each of flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoons available), serpent, four horns, four trumpets, three trombones, ophicleide, timpani, organ and a large body of strings (28, 26, 18, 18, 17).
This recording of Mendelssohn's great oratorio was made by the BBC at the Town Hall last October when Ex Cathedra gave the first performance of the original 1846 version since its premiere in the same venue, in partnership with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment using authentic instruments of the time (including the world's only contrabass ophicleide).