A welcome wagon consisting ofCulture Minister Guido Sáenz and a crowdof enthusiastic Japanese residents greetedrenowned Japanese sopranos MamiKoshigoe and Kazuko Nagai upon theirarrival at Juan Santamaría InternationalAirport in Alajuela, northwest of San José,July 8.The sopranos are here to star in six ofthe nine performances scheduled for theproduction of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly”from the end of July through August atthe National Theater in San José.Two dozen members of the country’sJapanese expatriate community waited atthe airport for the sopranos’ arrival, wavingboth Costa Rican and Japanese flags.“We want to welcome them and participatein this event, which is very importantfor the friendship between Japan and CostaRica,” explained resident NoBuya Ishii.Culture Minister Sáenz also welcomedthe singers, presenting them with bouquetsof flowers and praising their “exceptionaltalent.”SOPRANO Koshigoe, who first wonrenown in 1998 with an acclaimed portrayalof Susanna in the Nikikai Opera’s productionof Mozart’s “La Nozze de Figaro,”will perform the principal role of Cio-ciosan(Butterfly). Her most recent rolesinclude Donna Elvira in Mozart’s “DonGiovanni,” Despina in “Cosi Fan Tutte,”and Mimi and Musetta in Puccini’s “LaBohème.”Mezzo-soprano Nagai will play Suzuki,Cio-cio-san’s maid, a role with whichshe has become very familiar since beingchosen by eminent director GiuseppeSinopoli to sing the part for the inaugurationof Tokyo’s Suntory Hall in 1987. Shehas also performed in Germany and Italy,and is considered one of the best performersof the Suzuki role in Japan.Performing July 29 and Aug. 3, 5, 9, 12and 31, the international cast of “MadamaButterfly” will consist of Koshigoe, Nagai,Scott Piper and Guido LeBrón. Piper willplay Pinkerton and LeBrón will sing thepart of Sharpless. Both men are from theUnited States.The Costa Rican cast will performAug. 4, 7 and 11, and will consist ofAnayanci Quirós as Cio-cio-san, RaquelRamírez as Suzuki, Ernesto Rodríguez asPinkerton and José Arturo Chacón asSharpless.Available at the National Theater boxoffice, tickets range from ¢4,000-20,000($8.40-42). Students receive a 50% discount.To reserve, call 221-5341.