In 1996, the COA was officially registered as a non-profit charitable organization and was granted funding from the Urban Council and the Arts Development Council. By collaborating with the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, it has co-organized the “Certificate Course in Cantonese Opera Training”, with Dr Liza Wang, Mr Leung Hon-wai, and Professor Leung Pui-Kam being the Honorary Director, Artistic Director, and Programme Advisor respectively. With Ms Chan Kim Sing serving the role of Honorary Director in the second year, classes were held at Ko Shan Theatre and Ngau Chi Wan Civic Centre of the Urban Council. Meanwhile, hands-on practice and final performances were also held at Ko Shan Theatre every year. In the beginning, there were four classes for elementary and advanced classes, with a total of 110 students. Later, the course was reformed to a three-year course, with a total of five classes.
In addition to singing, acting, and basic skills, the course back then also incorporated Cantonese Opera history, Cantonese Opera makeup, and tutoring basic skills in the curriculum for the first time. The tutors include Ms Au Man-fung, Bernice, Mr Mak Wai-man, Mr Hui Kin-shun, Ms Cheng Man-ying, Ms Wang Jia-Ling, Ms Zhou Lili, etc. While Mr Law Hung and Dr Chan Sau-yan served as coordinator and programme director respectively, Ms Au Man-fung, Bernice also took up the role of Deputy Programme Coordinator.