The operatic show goes on

A woman walks in clinic 27, damaged after shelling, in Donetsk, Ukraine, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Vadim Braydov)

If war is hell, then even hell can have a bright spot. At least in Ukraine.

Despite tanks rolling down the main streets, the sound of artillery and shuttered shops outnumbering those still in business, the Donbass Opera in Donetsk is performing as if the country is not under siege by separatists.

It’s far from routine. Singers are in danger just traveling to and from the opera house. The warehouse where the company stored its sets was destroyed. Baritone Sergei Dubnitsky acts as conductor when he isn’t on stage. And no one is being paid.

On a few occasions, the cast has been herded to the bomb shelter in the basement when shelling got too close. But if the sounds of war occur during performances, no one is aware. They are listening to the music, theater deputy director Igor Ivanov told The Guardian newspaper.

As one woman said, “When you are surrounded by ugliness, beauty becomes something you cherish even more.”

But why does the troupe — some of whom are loyalists and some of whom support the separatist movement — continue?

“Maybe it sounds pretentious, but I think we have a certain moral obligation to stay. ... You can treat wounds with medicines, but art is medicine for the soul,” Mr. Dubnitsky said.

And it must be comforting to know that some of the heartbreaks, deaths and treachery that surround them in Donetsk are only make-believe.