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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.]


(Instruments) music an obsolete keyed wind instrument of bass pitch
[C19: from French ophiclēide, from Greek ophis snake + kleis key]
References in periodicals archive ?
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?
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.
These ensembles included: flute, bassoon, bass viol, clarinet, oboe, serpent, ophicleide, bugle, vamp-horn (megaphone), guitar, banjo, drums, concertina and tin-whistle.
They played admirably some selections from popular operas; a bass cantata on the ophicleide was executed with considerable talent.
My 1919 Elson's Pocket Music Dictionary tells me that the ophicleide is "a large bass wind instrument of brass.
The bass instruments include the valved tenor horn (also a virtuoso solo instrument), the bombardon, the ophicleide, the serpent, the bass tuba (which only became successful when built with a much wider bore than the earliest models), and the Wagner tuba.
The thing here is that it's from the always-reliable Sir Charles Mackerras, and it's done on period instruments, with the novelty of an original ophicleide replacing the modern tuba.