One of the pleasant shocks of Seattle Operas 2000 production of Wagners Ring was the first appearance of mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe as Fricka, Wotans wife and thus sort of the First Lady of the gods (literally a diva). She brought the part a bold, soaring voice and a commanding presence and fearlessnesswhich shes since shown here in other all-out roles like Carmen and Aidas Amneris. (Not to mention the comic heroine Isabella in Rossinis The Italian Girl in Algiers.) After having been named SOs Artist of the Year this past season for her Amneris, Blythe is back as Fricka. Frankly, this somewhat unsympathetic role needs someone of her star power: Frickas more than a bit of a scold (as youd be, too, if your sister got traded for a castle). And with Wotan (Greer Grimsley), she has to carry one of the four-opera cycles notorious longueurs, their 45-minute conversation in Act 2 of Die Walküre. But she made the scene riveting in 2000 and 2005, and will this year, too. GAVIN BORCHERT [Also see Gavin's review.] The first cycle of four performances runs Aug. 9-14; Cycle II, Aug. 17-22; Cycle III, Aug. 25-30. See seattleopera.org for exact dates and times.